Toolbox for Troubling Behavior



“We imagined a toddler, delivered to our door, longing to be loved and nurtured. That’s not what happened.”


In one mom’s story, the realization that having a baby would not be possible for her and her husband led to their decision to consider adoption—a series of events that left her feeling “overwhelmed.”


Exhilarated may have been a more accurate word because the reality of adopting a child quickly overtook the initial excitement and became an enormous challenge for this couple. In short order, they adopted two children, a brother and a sister, and slowly became a family.


“We have had some behavior problems, anger outbursts, and nightmares. But we have also had plenty of laughter, love, and a growing trust.”


The turmoil of deciding to adopt, going through the process, selecting and meeting your child(ren), getting them acclimated to your home and your neighborhood, to their school, et cetera, eventually settles into a rhythm, but for many adoptive parents, the routine gives way and reveals behavioral problems that need to be addressed.


For aggressive behavior, one expert not only recommends teaching assertiveness, but practicing it as well:


“An ideal opportunity to teach your child how to handle angry feelings is when you and your spouse have an argument. Your child can learn principles of listening well, remaining calm, cooling off, and negotiating a solution by your example. Do you and your spouse often lose control emotionally? Name-calling, hateful words, and, of course, physical aggression by parents are directly modeled by aggressive children.”


Of course adopted children’s negative behaviors have genetic and environmental factors, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless to change them for the better. Modeling the behavior you would like to see goes a long way in encouraging it in your children.


There may also come a time when you wonder if you need more professional help in managing troubling behavior in your adopted child. This guide of problem behaviors is one handy way to effectively assess their emotional health, and includes some important advice from psychiatrist Steven Nickman when considering therapists:


“Sometimes mental health professionals can make already-existing problems worse for adopted children [in]:


  • Not understanding the difference between adopting a child from foster care or from an orphanage and adopting a newborn infant. That’s a big difference!
  • Not understanding the difference between confidential adoption and open adoption.
  • Not recognizing or acknowledging the bond that exists between the parents and the adopted child; not perceiving similarities between the parents and adopted child.
  • Providing inappropriate therapy. The therapist might insist on working exclusively with the child and shutting the family out, or might ignore the child’s previous history.”



For parents raising an adoptive child or children with behavioral problems, a treacherous path can be made more passable thanks to a wealth of expert advice available on the Web and in real life. Keep an eye on this blog for future posts to guide you towards the best help out there.