The “You’re Not My Real Mother” Card

Dawn Davenport


All children get mad at their parents—or at least they do if their parents are doing a good job of parenting, which should include saying “no” on occasion. Some adopted kids have been known to throw down the “You’re Not My REAL Mom” card on occasion.

adoptive parenting-when kids yell "You're not my real mother"

From my experience, how children express anger depends primarily on two things: their temperament and what works.

Genetics Influence Temperament

Our children come to us with set temperaments. Some kids are strikers, lashing out verbally when ticked off; others are sulkers, retreating to their rooms to plot their revenge; while some sunny souls are slow to boil and quick to recover.

Science has shown that children are born with their basic temperament. We have done a couple of terrific Creating a Family shows on Nature vs. Nurture. On one show (Nature vs. Nurture/ Genetics vs. Environment) our guests were the directors of two of the leading longitudinal twin studies in the US.  The guests on the other show (Is Genetics or the Environment Most Important in Determining Who Our Kids Will Be?) represented two of the leading adoption studies in the US and also were both involved in twin research, as well. (I summarized my take on the nature vs. nurture debate in this blog titled Nature vs. Nurture.

You might think that your genetic child will come with a temperament similar to yours, but there are no guarantees. Genes are slippery little buggers, and Great Grandpa’s temper can pop out when least expected. (I might add that temperamentally similar parent and child combos are not always a blessing—imagine life with two sulkers. {horrors})

What We Can Control

While parents have little control over our child’s temperament, we have a great deal of control over what works. If you are a parent through adoption or donor egg or sperm blessed with a bright temperamentally volatile, expressive child, and you fall apart or back down when your little darling throws down the “you aren’t my real mom” card, or the “I wish I hadn’t been adopted” card, or the “I hate you” card, or “I’m nothing like you” card, chances are good that these cards will be thrown again and again. If these remarks don’t work to derail you, they are less likely to be used. And lest you think that only parents through adoption or donor gamete will hear some version of “I wish you weren’t my mother”, think again. Most kids wish this every once in a while regardless how they came to be yours. (Read my blog titled “I Wish You Weren’t My Mother“.)

You're Not My Mother Card

We can only control ourselves as parents and how we react to a situation. Children test boundaries regardless of how they were conceived, or how they came to be ours.

The funny thing is that we parents tend to focus on our children’s temperament, without recognizing that we also have a genetically set personality that comes into play when interacting with our kids. But we are the adults in the situation, and we can choose how we respond.

Mad as hell kid: You’re not my real mother!!!!

Equally mad mom who is successfully faking calmness: (choose one)

  • That’s funny, I sure feel like your mother {said with a healthy dose of irony}. Now, back to what we were talking about—your behavior.
  • I don’t scream at you, and I expect the same courtesy from you. You clearly need some time in your room (or time-out chair) to think about this. {with a well-timed harrumph thrown in for good measure}
  • Your feelings about me really aren’t the topic of this conversation. We are talking about your behavior.
  • I’d love to talk about adoption later, but right now you are sitting in the time-out chair, and the time doesn’t begin until you are quiet.

It’s so darn easy to give power to the wrong things. What else do you give power to? What are some of your favorite responses that the rest of us can stick in our back pockets to use if (when) necessary?

First published in 2012: updated in 2018.
Image credit: Palladius
Image credit: yevkusa

25/04/2018 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 0 Comments

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