"There are no argumentative children; only adults who argue with children."

Fear of the New

Question

Our Foster son (8 years old) who we will be adopting in the next 6 months (working on paperwork and all the legal stuff that goes with it) has a very low self esteem and melts down and has a full on tantrum, kicking, crying, angry... anytime we try to get him to do something new (eating a new food, trying a new sport with the family, having to present a small project in front of out homeschool co-op, a change in chores or any change really, or even something as small as asking him to participate in a silly family game). We give consequences for destructive behavior, but I'm wondering if you have any ideas or ways to help him get over his fear of trying new things. He has been in our home for 18 months.

Answer

Hello, and thank you for writing. Having served as a CASA for foster youth, I want to start by thanking you for welcoming him into your family.

Probably for obvious reasons, few of us look for opportunities to step out of our comfort zones. I am definitely drawn to that which I know and trust before things that I don't. Your son's self esteem might be just fine, and it doesn't really matter anyway. He needs to grow his self confidence.

I'm wondering whether you can remember any time that he was okay with trying anything new, and if so what the circumstances were. After 30 years in the classes with children ages 7 and younger, I have witnessed many children who didn't want to try anything new UNLESS it was something they chose. (The same thing is true about many children whose parents claim that they can't concentrate or attend to tasks.)

You know what he likes and what excites him. I suggest that you come up with some simple activities that you know will motivate him. Every few days, present an opportunity to try a new game, food, craft, sport...you get the idea. Do it without any conversation beyond "this is what we're doing now." Regarding new chores, I recommend designing a rotating chore chart for your kids which will help them both learn more life skills.

Remember that "I don't want to" or "it's too hard" are not legitimate reasons for not doing something that you know he can do or needs to learn. You're in charge. Lead him to trust that trying something is better than not trying and that he can trust you to know what is best for him.

Please write again if you need clarification or further support. Wishing you a lovely holiday filled with new opportunities!

Warmly,
Wendy Faucett
Certified Parent Leadership Coach
wendyfaucett@gmail.com
Facebook: Love & Leadership Parent Coaching

Developing self confidence and respect is a process. Your job is to provide age and interest appropriate opportunities. Check out www.volunteermatch.org with him to find events and organizations that are aligned with your family values and his interests where you can volunteer your time and talents and he can discover how valuable his efforts are. When we actively help others a glorious byproduct is an increase in our self esteem, respect and confidence.

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