Posted by: ramonamom | October 5, 2008

Reply to Reader’s Question

We received the following comment on one of our posts, which I would like to take the time to answer:

We have just recently adopted an older child from Russia (about 10 months ago). She is 11.  I do have a question if you would please comment on.  How do you handle a child who continually (almost everyday) comes up with bad behavior she knows you don’t approve of to try to force you to give her attention?  She gets a lot of attention, but she wants to always have all of the attention and tries to force others around her to show her attention by manipulating the envirnment.  She does this in public as well.  She’ll act up or try to start a fight with her siblings, etc.  I have talked with her to try to help her understand that this is unacceptable, and have tried to help her understand that when it is her turn to get attention we will spend time together ( I have other children in the home as well).  However, she says “Okay” and acts like she’s going to be different for a couple of days but goes right back to the very thing she got
in trouble for the last time.  She acts like she repents and is sorry for her actions, then in a couple of days does it again.  When I ask her why she did it she says ” to get attention or “because I wanted to”.  She seems to have no conscience.  I have prayed for God to give me wisdom and I would appreciate some helpful advice.

First of all, let me assure you that these are all very common, and even expected, behaviors of an older adopted child.  (See the post on habits.)  You are dealing with an unsaved child who has had a number of years to develop bad habits, perhaps with no one even attempting to train them out of her.  It will take quite some time to convince her that these ways are wrong and that she needs to replace them with good habits.  Here are some basic steps to take, which may help:

1)  Most importantly, she should be evangelized.  She may have never heard the Gospel message before, or she may have rejected it.  Pray for her on a regular basis and keep God’s word continually before her.  She may respond differently than your other adopted children, but that does not mean there is no hope of her salvation (see Stephen’s Prayer).  Never give up on her in this regard. 

2)  Teach her what it means to have a family, allowing her to make relationship mistakes along the way.  Having parents may be completely new to her.  It can be very difficult for a child to suddenly be expected to be obedient to parents if he/she has never had them in her life before. The authority figures in orphanages often simply present a challenge for the children to get around and not get caught.  Obedience to authority is not necessarily a character trait which is encouraged in some countries.   

3)  Set clear boundaries and consequences for her.  If she is not fluent in English yet, draw pictures, but somehow you must get your most important rules across to her AND the consequences which come with disobedience.  Be sure that your “hills to die on” are important ones and don’t expect perfection from her.

4)  Be consistent!!  This is very, very important.  Both parents must be in agreement regarding discipline of the children and it must be followed through with very consistently.  If a child gets away with something one time out of a hundred, they are prone to remember that one time for eternity! 

These are very general suggestions, as they must be molded to fit your family.  Show God’s love to your daughter each day, forgiving her and being willing to start over each morning.  Don’t hesitate to increase the consequences if she continually disobeys, but do it with a smile on your face.  Don’t take the behavior personally, although that may well be her intent.  Responding to her in anger will only add fuel to the fire, so work on being removed from the situations as much as possible. 

Commit yourself to bringing all of your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and search the scriptures for biblical principles which deal with challenges such as this.  May the Lord bless you and keep you in His care as you parent these children.



  1. Encouraging!

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