This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Multiple Choice and Maslow's Hierarchy

Brenda over at The Adoption Counselor quoted this, “The Ten Commandments are not multiple choice.” I love this saying, but it was something else she said that really clicked with me. She talks about how as a teen, she ignored authority, broke the rules, and did some embarrassing, shameful stuff, but she always knew she would grow up and grow out of this behavior and that she had choices.

I admit that I was not a perfect child (although when my mom tells tales of my naughty childhood, I always pretend she has me confused with my little sister! *grin*). Like Brenda though, I still knew I was a good person trying stuff out - this was not who I really was.

Brenda's point was that unlike us, our children do not have the same choices in how they will behave. I agree.
A lot of my children's behaviors are hard wired and even if they want to control and change them... it's going to require a lot of work and relearning.

I knew how to behave, but I chose not to (in my teen years). My kids are not starting at the same place as I did at all.

In a conversation with Bear's assistant principal (AP), I made a comment about how Bear would do well in prison (because of the structure and rules. Bear only feels safe and in control when he has strict structure - which, admittedly, he can then manipulate.).

The AP said he preferred to be optimistic and hope that Bear never goes to prison. I told him that it was just an example and I didn't mean I thought Bear was going to prison. Plus, I'm also a pretty optimistic person in general. But the truth is, I'm also a realist. It will not be easy for my kids to succeed and "behave." While I hope Bear does not go to prison, I must admit I would not be shocked.

The conversation Bear had with his therapist awhile back about Bear not feeling it was any concern of his if someone told Bear they were about to go blow up a building? (Here's that post) Yeah, it really freaked me out. If Bear feels that disconnected and unaffected by someone else's behavior then what keeps him from acting that way... not much!

The AP and I talked about Maslow's hierarchy of needs (see below if you're not familiar with it). Basically someone in the lower part of the pyramid only behaves because he will get in trouble if he doesn't. Then kids start behaving because they want to please others (usually it starts with their parents).

As a child gets older the "rules" of behavior become internalized. Finally, they behave because it is the right thing to do.

Kids with RAD have a damaged capacity to move up the hierarchy. This could be because they don't want to please others, or don't understand the rules of behavior so don't know how.

Our kids are are stuck at behaving because they don't want to get in trouble. So what happens if they are sure they won't get caught?

Would Bear blow up a building if it would benefit him in some way and he knew he wouldn't get caught? That is the question.

Maslow’s five levels of hierarchy are: 
Survival needs - 
1.) Physiological or biological needs. These are the survival needs — air, water, food, sleep and procreation. These requirements are the basic needs of human existence.
2.) Security or safety needs. These needs include health, financial security, shelter and the assurance of living in a place where one does not feel threatened.
3.) Social needs. Maslow felt that once physiological and security needs were met, people start looking for love, friendship and community. Families, religious groups and social organizations fulfill the need to belong.
4.) Esteem needs. Malsow noted two types of esteem needs — self-esteem and esteem from others.

  • The lower form is the need to be recognized and acknowledged by others. This would include a person’s social recognition, fame, accomplishment, reputation or status in the community.

  • The higher level is self-esteem, which includes feelings of confidence, self-respect, independence and competence.

These first four levels of hierarchy are often referred to as deficit needs, sometimes called D-needs.
If a person doesn’t have enough of something in these four levels, he or she would feel the deficit — or need.
If one does have enough, it is often times not noticed.
Maslow has also termed these first four categories as survival needs, as humans instinctively attempt to cover all of these. If one of these needs was not properly met when a person was a child, that person may fixate on the particular need throughout the rest of his or her life.

5.) Self-actualization needs. These are the apex of Maslow’s hierarchy and are called the being needs or B-needs. When the first four D-needs are met, then a person begins to search for becoming his or her best self.
Unlike the lower levels of the hierarchy, this need is never completely met as there are continuous new occasions for growth.

With D- needs, once fulfilled you don’t often notice them. The B-needs however, become stronger as they are realized.

Maslow stated only about 2% of the world population is in the self-actualization state. 

Maslow considered people in this state to include Abraham Lincoln, Albert Schweitzer, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein.


GB's Mom said...

Interesting stuff... and very appropriate as our kids face tomorrow.
Thanks :)

brenkachicka said...

"I know how to behave, but I chose not to (in my teen years). My kids are not starting at the same place as I did at all."

This make sense! I hate it when people downplay a RAD kids behavior because "all kids act out."

Lulu McCabe said...

So true! It drives me nuts when my friends say "Oh, all teenagers act out." Sure, they do, but it's not the same - for the reasons you put your finger on.