There is a false assumption that antisocial behaviors only occur in older children who were adopted out of the foster care system after suffering neglect or abuse. In fact, time and again I hear from distressed parents of children adopted at all ages that their children have been lying and stealing – and that they don’t know what to do about it.
Parents of children adopted as newborns or young babies are often bewildered and caught by surprise if their child hoards food, steals money and tells falsehoods. “I could understand if he had a history of hunger and trauma,” one mother explained. “But my son has never been deprived of food or love. I brought him home with me when he was 4 days old. Why is he constantly stealing money from my wallet and sneaking food from other people’s houses?”
The possibility that an adopted child may have an increased tendency to lie or steal is something that is not discussed enough in pre-adoption consultations, nor in online comment threads, because nobody wants to be attacked for perpetuating the stereotype of the “troubled adoptee” or the “bad parent.”
In a society that is quick to shame parents, it is scary to acknowledge and openly talk about a child’s behavioral struggles. The key is to move away from judgment and learn that what is happening is actually an understandable adaptive behavior by a child in psychological pain.