Indulgent Parents & Spoiled Adoptees
If there’s one concern we hear more than any other, it has to do (interestingly enough) with fears about indulgent parents & spoiled adoptees.
Parents who adopt through Abrazo are typically diligent about wanting the birthparents to be pleased with how they are raising their children, and many might be surprised to learn that birthparents worry about adoptive parents not being strict enough. Others might secretly question what right a birthparent who has chosen not to parent has to judge the performance of an adoptive parent who jumped through so many hoops in order to assume that role. (And still others may agree that they, too, sometimes worry about whether or not their child is somewhat spoiled?)
It’s not that our birthparents don’t appreciate everything that the adoptive parents are trying to do for the children they’ve placed. (Trust us: they do.)
It’s just that most of Abrazo’s birthmothers are already parenting other children, and knowing the importance of discipline, they worry that the adoptive parents may be too lenient or too indulgent, and that the adopted child may become spoiled, as a result.
Sure, Orphan Annie Had It All– But She Wasn’t Real.
One Yahoo message board member started a small firestorm nine years ago when she posted “It’s a known fact that adoptive parents tend to spoil their children, right? Are adoptive parents creating a wave of spoiled brats? By the way, I don’t mean ‘brats’ to offend anyone. It’s just a term used to describe what I’m talking about.”
Where does this stereotype come from, anyway? (Daddy Warbucks and little orphan Annie were fictional characters, after all.) Obviously, there is often a considerable economic difference between birthfamilies and adoptive families, so it’s possible that this contrast also contributes to this impression? Still, this is a concern that comes up in a variety of settings, and it’s raised by adoptive parents as well as birthparents, professionals and other bystanders.
Those who become parents through adoption are often more established by the time they take placement, so they tend to be able to provide the child they adopt with more economic advantages, more educational and recreational opportunities, and more material possessions than the average birthparent can– this is true. And while adoptive parents sometimes worry that they lack an inborn instinct on how to parent, there is no scientific basis for such beliefs. Parents who adopt may be more prone to tolerate misbehavior at times, and they may be more indulgent, given their means. Yet this does not, in and of itself, mean that all adoptees are spoiled.
Theorists do believe that adoptive parents do tend to be overprotective, given all the thought and effort they’ve put into becoming parents. Many also believe, like psychologist Nicholas Zill, that adoptive parents are more sensitive about monitoring their child/ren’s well-being. This does not, however, predispose them to being any more likely to spoil their child/ren than any other parent; it does mean, though, that they are more likely to seek professional treatment for their child/ren’s problems.
Are Adoptive Parents More (or Less) Strict than Bio-Parents?
As in the days of the orphan trains, those who adopt older children (or who adopt through the public foster care system) are sometimes perceived to be more strict, because of the importance of establishing and maintaining consistent boundaries right from the start. (Historically, orphans were often perceived to be of “inferior stock” and tended to be older; they were sometimes adopted by those seeking cheap labor, possibly contributing to the impression that such children needed to be closely watched and kept busy in order to stay out of trouble.)
The old “spare the rod and spoil the child” approach has become a concern even for mental health professionals (read this,) but teaching children appropriate conduct and healthy boundaries is an essential task for any good parent. Adoptive parents have typically undergone more formal training and preparation to become parents than the average bio-parents, but they often also struggle with unrealistic expectations that they be “perfect parents” (whether because of the birthparent’s sacrifice or the adoptee’s primal wounds or the agency’s requirements or societal or personal values.)
Parents who adopt in Texas are prohibited from using corporal punishment on the child/ren they adopt. However, this certainly does not mean that they are forbidden to discipline their adopted child/ren in other ways. Responsible agencies like Abrazo contract with their adoptive parents to use non-physical discipline techniques, such as “time out” and positive reinforcement and redirection and withholding of privileges. (Check out 25 Nonviolent Discipline Options if you need more ideas for discipline beyond spanking.)
Perhaps the beauty of open adoption is that it enables prospective birthparents and adoptive parents to get to know each other in advance of placement, and to ascertain whether or not their values and expectations about such child-rearing topics as parenting and discipline are compatible. Birthparents with parenting experience can help to advise new adoptive parents, and to validate their efforts to discipline appropriately, as the child grows.
There may always be differences of opinion, of course, just as there are disagreements in any family system. If grave concerns about child discipline (or lack thereof) do arise, birthparents may opt to discuss these privately with the adoptive parents, parent-to-parent. Still, it is important to acknowledge the adoptive parents’ right to make their own best child-rearing decisions, given their legal and moral rights as parents (unless there is reason to believe child abuse is occurring, in which case proper authorities must be alerted.)
Indulgent parents & spoiled adoptees may be a problem in some cases, of course; yet in Abrazo’s experience, people who want the job of parenting desperately enough to go through all they do to adopt often do turn out to be the best-qualified for that position, when all is said and done?