Ay!

Little Chick is angry. We’re not sure why exactly. But he is definitely angry.

There have been fewer words this past week and even fewer sentences, even two-word combination. The single words he utters are shouted or whispered bitterly. There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium.

Requests are met with “Ay!” Cuddles are dismissed with “Ay!” Easy breezy conversation is shut down with a firm and final “Ay!”

“Ay!” precedes hair pulling. “Ay!” is accompanied by pushing. “Ay!” follows pinching.

This seems like more than normal toddler aggression and anger. This is scary.


Edit (August 2018): During adoption training and from speaking with adoptive parents, I learned that Child Parent Violence (CPV) can be problematic for adoptive families. I didn’t think that what we were experiencing with Little Chick met this definition*, but I wasn’t taking any risks either.

Speaking to Little Chick’s social worker, we arranged an appointment with a psychologist through Adoption Support. The psychologist knew nothing of our situation before the appointment and only spent an hour with us. But that was enough, for now. Unpicking it together, this was Little Chick’s way of communicating with us. He felt deregulated and overwhelmed and this manifested in his behaviour, understandable since his speech can be limited. The main advice was to maintain routines, encourage time in, and practise therapeutic parenting. We try to do this anyway but acknowledged several changes recently – change of bed and night-time routine, Mama returning to work – on top of the general issues of leaving his foster carer and moving in with us. She offered practical tips too, such as avoiding playing games on the floor where he could more easily attack us (we should maintain our height advantage), tying up hair and avoiding wearing jewellery, and a range of play therapy games. I cannot share these publicly but if you would like a copy of the play therapy games please contact me.

In the past weeks the physical aggression has lessened. Little Chick seems calmer; subsequently, so do we. It was embarrassing to admit that a two-year-old was hurting me, that I was being beaten up by a toddler. But I knew that, whatever the reason, we needed to meet the problem head on, for all our sake.

*“…any harmful act by a teenage child intended to gain power and control over a parent. The abuse can be physical, psychological, or financial.” Cottrell (2003)

Cottrell’s definition focuses on teens, but I know several adoptive families with preschool children who face this problem.

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