I blogged over at No Hands But Ours today about American Sign Language. In it’s simplest, ‘baby’ form, ASL has made life a heckuva lot easier for our family as we have navigated the oft rough waters of communication breakdown with our newly adopted kiddos.
It’s also pretty cool to be able to holler at your child in public, without saying a word.
Not that I would ever need to do that.
And while I really didn’t want to go off on a tangent over there, I don’t mind doing that here. On my home turf.
Going off on a tangent, that is.
At the very end of my post I shared how teaching Vivi (and all our other kiddos before her) just a few words in ASL has been a huge blessing for us. Seriously. The very first word we teach our kids, and to us one of the most important ones, is “please”. I can’t even begin to tell you what a temper – tantrum – buster this one, lone sign can be.
China is like a vacuum. Unlike anything you’d really ever experience in the real world with your new child. You travel there, after months and months of anticipation, arms overflowing with goodies and dollies and clothes with the tags still on, ready to spoil the heck out of your new baby. And well you should, they’ve been without for far too long. You’ve also got the added bonus of someone doing your laundry, your cooking, your cleaning… you can devote yourself 100% to your new bundle o’ love. And that is definitely time well spent. But beware. It’s a slippery slope and insanely easy to get your new child hooked on some unrealistic expectations and some really bad behaviors. Setting up poor habits in China might be just what sends you over the edge once you return home.
And reentry can be tough.
I am a huge advocate of devoting yourself and your time and your energy fully to your new child while in China. I am an advocate of carrying and co-sleeping in those first few weeks and months if necessary. I am an advocate of feeding goodies to, shopping for and giving gifts to your new child, as a way of teaching them, in an albeit primitive way, that you are good. You are nice. That they should not be afraid of you. And that, if allowed, you will meet all their needs.
If you happen to do that with food and goodies and toys, you’re just speaking their language.
What I’m not a fan of of is spoiled kids. Hurtful actions such as hitting and biting. Temper tantrums. And no consequences for bad behavior. While I’ve never tackled really big stuff, I have had my fill of two-year-old belligerence and 18-month old temper tantrums. And we all know how ugly that can be.
So, where we we?
The sign for “please”, when used correctly, can be a first step in the very positive direction of all things good. Doing, or at least trying to do the sign (obedience) equals getting what the child wants. All while not rolling on the floor, thrashing and screaming. I’m not sure how it works, but there hasn’t been a child yet who has managed to continue to scream bloody murder, and make an attempt at signing “please”. Just can’t do it. So once they stop crying long enough to try to sign, they get what they want. They communicate without crying, and then they get a reward. Positive reinforcement all the way, baby! And it teaches good manners, too.
Another thing that I think is worth insisting on from the beginning is feeding. Of course, you’re not going to want to spoon feed your 7 year old, but since 27 months is the oldest our kiddos have been at adoption, I was able to insist on feeding my kids. And I am so glad I did.
Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, it can be aggravating. Not to mention messy. But it’s important to do all you can to have them associate their new caregiver (probably you) with food. Which equals, again, good. Kids love to eat. And you want them to come to you when they’re hungry and learn to depend on you to fill this one very basic, and very important, need.
Another thing worth mentioning is carrying, which I sort of already touched on here, as well as in a past
rant post. But it’s important to reiterate because at no other time are you going to have a full two weeks off, where all your needs are being met, where you can totally focus on your new child. Use your time well. Carry them. Hold them. Lay with them. It is time really well spent.
Because once you come home, life is going to be chaotic. Wonderful and horrible and absolutely crazy. So my advice, take it or leave it, is to indulge your little one in China. With your time, your love, your attention. But set reasonable limits and don’t allow behaviors way out of your comfort zone to get a foothold. Especially if it’s something you’re absolutely going to have to put your foot down on once you get home. Because by then, the behavior will likely have escalated. It’s one thing if your new child cracks you in the face, but you’re going to be a whole lot more upset if they come home and give your other baby a fat lip.
Setting limits is good. And loving. And really and truly, eventually, brings peace. It’s a tangible reminder to your new child that you are there to keep them safe and protected and out of harm’s way. And there is no better time to lovingly, *gently* begin to introduce those limits than in China.
All while loving them up, 24/7.