Perhaps some of you have have adopted children who appear to be ungrateful as well. Not being thankful about a certain gift. Asking for a name brand item when you were sure the generic brand would be just fine. Not looking people in the eye and saying please or thank you. Flat out ignoring people when they are speaking to him/her. Constantly asking for things and more things when in your mind you are thinking, "Really? Last month you didn't own one pair of shoes or anything that played music and now all of the sudden you think you are entitled to whatever exceedingly high cost fly-by-the night brand you lay eyes on? How did this happen? What can we do about it?" Diving deeper into what appears on the surface to be an ungrateful heart, I was able to uncover a few gems.
First of all, we need to consider cultural differences. Could any of the perceived ungratefulness be chalked up to different cultures? Without a doubt! For example, and this is just one example, in Sporty's home country for him to look me, his mother, in the eye could be offensive. In America, we want our children to look at us to make sure they acknowledge what is being said. So, we worked on this. I forbade him to turn his back on me when I am talking to him. No exceptions. Since I am pretty sure that is universally rude, that was a no brainer. As for the eye contact, we are working on it. I don't want to strip away his culture and definitely appreciate and respect that he is trying to respect me, but I also desire for him to learn cultural norms here...for school, relationships, and his future!
Second, we live in a country of excess. I was amazed at how quickly our son transitioned from not owning a single possession to asking for pretty everything in sight. Honestly, can you blame the kids in a sense? Our eyes don't see what their new-to-America eyes see. Picture Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory or something similar. They have hit the jackpot. Useless items everywhere for the taking! Do they understand value? Prices? That we are not rich? That we just broke the bank on the adoption itself? Not unless we teach them, so I put the kibosh on the "I-wanna-have-it-itis" early on. VERY. EARLY. ON. It went like this: Sporty: I want an iPod Toosh (obviously meaning touch). Me: No, you can't have that. They are expensive and you are not getting one. Sporty: I want another pair of shoes. Me: No, the ones you have area just fine and until you grow out of them they will be the only sneakers you will have. This went on for months. I would give reasons, explain how money is earned and how we spend it, and would also state that that there is a time for gifts, and that time is not every day. We have necessities and the rest are wants.
Third, control or lack of control. Thinking of all the changes in our son's life in such a short period, it is no wonder he may feel a bit out of control or unsure. Many of us have control issues. When we feel like (insert whatever) is out of our control, we develop unique coping mechanisms. For example, I am a runner. Whenever I feel stressed, upset, or frazzled, I lace up and hit the streets or trails. Kids generally don't have these skills (unless they have been coached) to identify their triggers and come up with practical solutions. They may never have been taught how to communicate their feelings or emotions, especially if this was not common in their culture. Perhaps Sporty asking for material things was just a way that he was trying to communicate something immaterial was missing. Trying to fill a void if you will. Thankfully, Sporty can actually communicate quite effectively. He may not want to, but if I am able to get him to relax and feel secure, he usually opens up about whatever may be bothering him. Then, we talk and I can reassure him as best as possible.
Finally, there are so many things beneath the surface. Please, please don't assume that your child is truly ungrateful. I imagine that they will not understand the enormity of what has happened in their lives until much later. Remember, they are only kids and we cannot ask kids to deal with adult issues. What appears to be ungratefulness might just be uncertainty, insecurity, hormones, fear, or any combination of things. Try to figure out creative ways to dig beneath the surface so you can discover your child's heart. In our home, that has made all the difference. A smiling face and good soccer skills does not mean our child has not suffered severe grief and loss. Our son and your child have left their country and culture, moved halfway around the world to a place where most don't yet speak the language, and are calling strange new people mom and dad. Some have siblings perhaps for the time, all are asked to meet countless new expectations, maybe without even understanding what the expectations are. Imagine how you might feel? Imagine being in a foreign country without an interpreter and knowing that this. is. it. There is no going back. Make it or break it. That scares me and I am a grown adult!
Do we need to teach our children to be respectful? Of course. Can we teach our children to have a grateful heart. Yes, I believe so! Are some of our children's actions rude or inappropriate regardless of culture and therefore need to be dealt with accordingly? Sure thing! Since my first post nearly six months ago we have had lesson after lesson on being grateful and what that means. How do we show we are grateful? What words or gestures could be used? How do we properly thank people? What are appropriate responses in such-and-such social situation? All of these things take time. There are so many changes going on in such a short period. Emotions are all over the place. We are tired. Our children are tired. We are stressed. Our children feel our stress and react to it. It is hard. It is rewarding. Is is where Jesus' heart is, friends! So, stay on the path. Get help when needed: for yourself, your child, your family. And, be sure to always ask yourself if what you are seeing on the surface is truly your child's heart or merely just a symptom of something greater going on inside. Finally, remain His humble servant. Remember why you started down this road don't lose hope. We are all on this journey together!
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6