When Jeffrey’s parents talked to him about his “bad” school papers, Jeffrey immediately started
to cry, assuming he’d disappointed them. He repeated fearfully, “I won’t do it again! I promise!”
Many children who are adopted, like Jeffrey, panic when they make mistakes or when they get
into trouble. They worry, either consciously or subconsciously, that parents may stop loving them,
will reject them or even regret their decision to adopt. Similar concerns about being rejected can
carry over to the school setting, often causing kids to become perfectionists. They wonder if
they’ll ever be “good enough.”
What can parents do to combat this pattern of fear and
Using specifics when praising children builds their confidence. Instead
of telling your son he is good, tell him why he is good. Was he compassionate? Careful? Thoughtful?
Using specifics when correcting children is also encouraging. Suggest concrete ways
your daughter can improve her writing assignment. Is it lacking creativity, organization or
thoroughness? Don’t just tell her it’s unacceptable or that she must do it over. Be helpful, not
We empower our children when we show them how they contribute to their success or
their lack thereof. For example: “Jeffrey, you earned that excellent grade because you remembered to
bring your book home and asked me to explain that new word. And you managed your time well,
This is especially important in an adoptive setting, where many children experience
academic delays. Children often think that they are stupid and that learning will always be
difficult. Specific language allows them to have confidence in who they are today. It helps put the
past into perspective and positively affects their future.
Treat them as individuals.
Although children who are adopted may have things in common, they are certainly not identical. Be
your child’s advocate: Encourage teachers to treat every student as unique.
naturally try to be what they think teachers want them to be. But when teachers’ expectations are
not designed with them in mind, they often find it impossible to meet those expectations, and they
end up feeling like failures. Then they try even harder not to disappoint, fueling their
unattainable desire for perfection. Protect your children from this vicious cycle.
children who are adopted receive the right kind of support, they will likely trust you more, gain
self-confidence and be willing to take healthy risks — assured of your love and care.
Dr. Kathy Koch is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids Inc. and the author of
8 Great Smarts.