Monday, October 6, 2014

Being Good Through Competition: Pigs Trough Syndrome

by John and Diane.
I have this theory I refer to as the Pigs Trough Syndrome (no offense to pigs or kids out there.) The theory is based on this: A farmer can’t raise just one pig, because it would starve to death. One pig will not eat; it needs another pig at the trough to compete with for food, in order to stimulate its appetite, and inspire it to eat and thrive. I have noticed similar behavior among some of my past foster kid’s with attachment disorders.
I had one child who loved to clean the house and do chores to please me and make me happy. He would receive praise for these activities, and would do these things without being asked. The other child (who had an attachment disorder) would never normally initiate doing routine chores without prompting and would usually not complete his normal assigned chores on his assigned day without continual prompts and encouragement. Even then, his cleaning or assignments were done quickly and without care.
Once the child who enjoyed cleaning came into the house, the other boy observed the positive feedback he received, and began cleaning and performing the same tasks to compete with the other kid for attention and kudos. The competition for attention and praise compelled him to behave in a desired manner where monetary rewards, activity rewards or other routine household allowances or reward programs failed.
If the other child weren't around to do the activities, the inspiration to perform the tasks would be missing. Without the competition, and the feeling that one child could “win” the affection or praise over the other foster child; the normal lazy approach to chores would continue.
Unfortunately, in my experience, the good behavior inspired through competition does not become a habit for kids with attachment disorder, once the competition is gone. That is the problem with attachment disorders, the child doesn't’ really seek the affection or praise of the foster parent, so that is not the reward… in this case, the reward is winning a competition or beating out another child.
This behavior could be monitored. However, over time to see if it does continue without competition. This might be one way to determine if an attachment has formed between a child with an attachment disorder and his foster or adoptive parents.