Adoption is an important decision for any parent to make, but what happens when your kids are completely opposed to the idea? Dr. Leman breaks it down in today’s Ask Dr. Leman. Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.
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Doug: Hello. My name is Doug Terpening.
Intro: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: I almost forgot my name. I literally was like, “What do I say? Oh yeah, my name. Doug Terpening.” If this is your first time with us, we are so glad you are, and we hope that you remember your name. This is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, Dr. Leman, it is September 25th. That means kids are all back in school and life is going when this podcast is released. How many schools will you have open at this time?
Dr. Leman: Well, I have six open, and football season will be in full bloom, which I love, so I’m a happy dude.
Doug: Super. Well, let’s jump into today’s question. Looking forward to this one.
Stacy: Hi. My name is Stacy and I have been a single mom for the past five years, of two boys. I have been feeling led to adopt an eight to ten year old for the past few years, and with my older son, who is 17, he will be going off to college within the next year, and my 14 year old, I of course have four more years with him before he launches off into college. I was thinking of adopting within the next year, of taking the classes to prepare. I’ve been preparing my sons for this. They are both adamantly against it. They are even telling me that they are going to move in with their father if I do adopt another child. I’m not really sure how to handle this. I know since the divorce, it was very difficult for them and I.
So, I’m just wondering what your advice is on how to move forward towards adoption or to put this on hold until they both move out and go to college. Either way, they are still going to have to meet this young person that I want to adopt one day. I want them to be loving towards them, but of course I-
Doug: And she cut out.
Dr. Leman: Well, we got the message. Oh boy. That’s a little bit more complicated question than meets the eye. Part of what I think those boys are saying is, “Hey mom, you’re a single mom. The divorce was tough on all of us.” They’re probably reacting that way in some ways to protect you. I think you ought to realize that and you ought to have a conversation if that’s not a part of their feelings. On the other hand, they might feel like many kids do. That’s, “Wait a minute. We’re your real children here and why would you want to bring somebody else into this family?” So, they’re resentful of an intruder. I think the healthy discussion is, let’s take an age like an eight year old, which is better than 10, by the way, because it’s more years between the 14 year old. The more years between the adopted child and your youngest, the better. For example, if you adopted a three or four year old, that would be a piece of cake because there’s not a lot of direct conflict with a 14 year old and a three year old under normal circumstances.
Let’s just, for the sake of argument, say you have an eight year old that you want to adopt. You say, “Well I want him to meet this child.” I would encourage you to bring that child around. I’d make it a social situation where all eyes are not on the eight year old. There’s some interactive play or something, so it can be as relaxed a situation as possible. Your two older kids, who have no idea or no inkling that they would ever like this arrangement might actually be stunned to find out that kid’s actually a pretty nice little kid. He’s sort of cute. Lots of times people will decide they don’t like something. As a 19 year old, I decided I didn’t like Tuscan, Arizona. Well, I’ve been here since 1962, so something happened along the way to change my opinion. So, that exposure to a young kid without making any big commitment about, I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna adopt this child, or anything, is probably a good start.
Now the other side of the coin is, the two people who ostensibly love you the most and care about you the most are both adamantly against this. Again, there’s some reasons, which I think you have to research out. If they carry through on their threat and say, “Okay. If you adopt that eight year old, we’re gonna go live with dad,” that’s a spit in your soup. It’s okay mom and dad, or mom in your case. “So you didn’t listen to us? Okay. You didn’t listen to us, we know exactly how to get even with you. We’re gonna go live with dad.” Now living with dad, you know better than I do, may not be the best place for those kids. It might bring a lot of hardships that way. In the event that they decide to leave and you do bring this child home and you work toward adoption, if they left and dad was okay with it, I’d let them go. I’d let them live there, but if they go there, they would live there an entire year. At least a school year.
In other words, lots of times kids will say, “I want to do something,” then they get there and they realize the grass that looks so green was a little different shade, and on top of that, you had to mow it once you got there. Life isn’t always what you think it is, so there ought to be some learning if that event takes place. But I wouldn’t force things. Love doesn’t demand its own way, as you know. I would search out, give these kids a chance to talk about what bothers them about adoption because you have something you present, like what’s gonna happen to this eight year old? Can you think of a better family for this eight year old to be adopted into? Two big brothers, wow. Somebody to look up to. In other words, you could put a spin on this for the older brothers that might actually sound pretty good to them.
Doug: Dr. Leman, in her question, I’ve just got to ask a dumb, because I’m not the doctor here. It sounded like she was like, “Well I’m gonna do it regardless of what they think.” It seems unhealthy to me because these are the two people who care the most about her, or am I just off-base in that?
Dr. Leman: She’s walking into a power struggle. Again, for all of you parents who have powerful kids, you really have to hear me on this one. If you get into a power struggle with your son or your daughter, you’re gonna lose. Hands down, you’re gonna lose. Some of you say, “No, I’m gonna win.” Well, at what expense are you gonna win? You have to find a way of getting them on your side.
When I was a head resident many years ago, the dean of students had one great piece of advice for me. He said, “Kevin, one last reminder, there’s 360 of them and there’s one of you. Learn to win their cooperation.” I would say to mom, “Hey, there’s two of them. Learn to win their cooperation.”
Andrea: Is it possible that it would actually be unhealthy for them for her to bring this boy in, and that it’s not the wisest thing for her to get them on her side, as opposed to-
Dr. Leman: Yeah. She’s gonna live H-E-double hockey sticks if she brings that kid in the house. Let’s say she brings a 12-year-old home. Just two years removed from that youngest. I mean, you don’t think that 17 and 14 year old are gonna take care of that 12-year-old in a negative sense? They sure will. That’s open war. That’s rebellion. It’s, you did me wrong and now you’re gonna pay for it, mama.
Doug: Doing these podcasts with you, you said something that fundamentally changed me as well. You said, “Make sure that your home feels like their home now.” I butchered the phrase, but that they want … Otherwise when they leave, they’re never gonna come back. Is Stacy in danger of making it that this is not their home and they’re not gonna want to come back?
Dr. Leman: Especially since there’s a divorce and a father who might be a, I’m just guessing might be very much at odds with mom. He could fan the seeds of rebellion. It could turn ugly. I mean, if you’ve got two kids who are adamantly against something, and you head strong go into it, and am I saying kids make that decision? No. I’m not saying that at all, so please don’t send me an angry email about that. What I’m saying is you have to be compassionate and have an understanding and have a discussion with these two kids, so they feel that they were heard. They might lighten up after they feel like they’ve been heard. They might actually come around, like I say. They might figure out this kid’s okay.
Doug: Ah. So you’re saying, sit down with them, have a rational adult-to-adult-ish, I mean they’re kids, kind of a conversation.
Dr. Leman: Try.
Doug: Try. And if you can’t win them to your side, then you’re saying, know the cost of what you’ve just decided then. Is that what I hear you saying?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Know what you’re walking into because you’re gonna walk into a firestorm if they remain adamantly opposed, and then all of a sudden you find yourself with this adopted child. And again, many times if you have that loving heart parent, I hope you’ll hear what I have to say here. Many times parents who really have loving hearts reach out to kids that have been hurt, sometimes abused, neglected, whatever. Here’s the question of the day. What is the best guess of how that child that you’re reaching out to love is gonna react or respond to you? In loving kindness and gratitude or are they gonna take a couple of your fingers off? Those of you who said fingers are right. It’s tough. It’s tough making that transition. I’m just saying I would exhaust those kids in discussion. I’d make sure you heard every word they had to say.
Doug: Expounding upon this question just a little bit, what she’s trying to do is fabulous. It’s, this is really good. How do you know when to be like, “This is really good kids”? How do you balance that as a parent? I’m butchering my question here. When you know it’s a really good thing to do, but your kids are against you, how do you know when that right spot is?
Dr. Leman: Well again, you’ve got to remember, in four years, 14 year old’s 18 and gone from the house. So I’m sure part of her mindset is, “I’m not ready to have my empty nest, so I want to bring another little one in the house.” So, the question you have to ask yourself as a woman, Stacy, is whose needs are being met here? Is your motivation really to just love another child and give them an opportunity or are some of those desires just selfish, that you want someone around? Maybe I didn’t say that as well as I could have. All I’m saying is just be honest with yourself as you go forward here.
Doug: Well, I appreciate those words because I am learning, now that we have an 18 year old, almost 19 year old, in our household right now, and a 16 year old. It sure pays to ask them their opinion. I’m telling you. Man, it goes-
Dr. Leman: No, it does.
Doug: Oh man. Thank you for that phrase. More than you know.
Dr. Leman: So realize if you look at Stacy’s question and just pick up where you left off, Doug. Okay, they’re adamantly against it, but I’m gonna do it, and that’s how we read that question. Now look at that versus, “Could I have your opinion?” Those are diametrically opposed to each other.
Doug: I’ve just got to say, every parent that’s out there, those are magic words to use with 18 year old. At least for us, our son, and even daughter, 16 year old, Anna, who we were … on our other podcast. Just to say, “Can I get your opinion about this?” It’s amazing how disarming that is for them. Not every time. I mean, sometimes they’re like, “Dad, I don’t want to talk about that.” But sometimes, more often than not, they’re like, “This is what I think.” Then I ask them another question and then eventually, not all the time, they’ll either me what I think or I get a chance to share what I think. My son and I had a conversation before we got on this podcast that was like that.
Okay. Thank you, Dr. Leman.
Dr. Leman: Hey, thank you guys.
Doug: So good. I also just want to thank our dear friends over at Revell and Baker Publishing. They’ve been your publisher for how long?
Dr. Leman: Well, I think the first book, oh I think it was, I’m guessing ’84 with them now.
Doug: That’s a good relationship, isn’t it?
Dr. Leman: So, we’ve got a ton of books with them.
Doug: That’s amazing. We love them and we appreciate them being the ones that make this podcast happen. They’re amazing folks. As always, I can’t encourage you enough. If you hear this and something sparks within you to go buy the books that Dr. Leman has written, Making Children Mind Without Using Yours is brand new revision, fabulous book, as well as Have a New Kid by Friday, fabulous book. Even for your own self, Andrea and I, we read the Birth Order book and we just underlined like half the book. Again, I just can’t encourage you guys enough to go buy those books for yourself. They will have a great impact in your life and your parenting. Thank you guys. We look forward to the next time we get to hang out with you and be with you. Hope you have a great one.
Andrea: Thank you. Have a great week.