Tuesday Topic: Help! My Son is Rejecting Me

Sometimes a child joins our family through foster care or adoption and pushes us away despite our best efforts. When we’re the parent being rejected, it’s painful and has the potential to reach deeply into our hearts and minds.


This question comes from Lindsey,

My husband and I have been foster parents and are adopting a three yr old boy we have had for 4 months. He was homeless the first 2 yrs of his life, with his father. No mom. My husband and I both work part-time, but my husband is home more than me. Our son has latched onto him but has really rejected me for the most part. 

I am seeing little glimpses of hope, but for the most part, he avoids me and dismisses me, or angrily says “I not talk to you,” or “I not look at you!” We have had many different children with different disabilities/backgrounds/ages, but never this situation. Any tips?

Your Thoughts

Please offer your thoughts, experiences, words of encouragement, and advice in the comments for Lindsey. You don’t need to be an expert, even an “I’ve been there,” is helpful.

If you have a question you would like me to share as a Tuesday Topic, email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com

Please put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line to help me stay just slightly organized.

It feels great to have Tuesday Topics rolling again – I love hearing from you! Last week I added Facebook comments from my One Thankful Mom Page as a separate blog post because they were particularly meaningful.

I may add them again this week, not necessarily as a separate post, but possibly to the end of this post; I’ll see what seems best. I love the discussions on FB, but they disappear quickly and I don’t want anyone to miss them.

You may want to read: Tuesday Topic: How Have You Been Changed by Adoption and Your Thoughts on How You’ve Been Changed by Adoption/Foster Care

Have a great day, friends! I can’t wait to hear from you.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Jo
    April 25, 2017

    It took me a while to bond with our son. The best thing I ever did was mom and me swim classes. He was 2+ and most of the other kids were newborns or really young. The first lesson he screamed the whole time, but by 10 mins in to the second lesson he loved it. When you are holding your kid in deep (for them) water they “have” to trust you, or learn to! I didn’t take the class to help with bonding and attachment, but it really helped In that area 😊

  2. Sondra
    April 25, 2017

    Being the only parent in my home, I’ve never had this exact experience, but I have had preschoolers reject me like this. Don’t take it personally, and be as playful about it as you can, such as, “Well, guess what? I love you!” and walk away cheerfully. Sometimes bath or bed time leads to lowered defenses and more willingness to connect.

    Give him time. Lots and lots of time. My daughter is 9, came to me at 18 months, adopted at age 4. We’ve finally connected within the past year or so.

  3. Nona C
    April 25, 2017

    I would suggest some mommy and son time in the home. Just you two. Isolating just you and him a few times a week or as often as you can. Allowing him to solely rely on you a little. Even a special wake up routine or bedtime readiness routine. Prayers for you and him! Hang in there!

  4. Cassie
    April 25, 2017

    4 of my children were adopted from foster care. They came to me (not all at once) at 8, 6, 2, and 6 months. They were adopted at 13, 9, 5, and 3 and are now 15, 12, 8, and 6.

    All kids are different, but I wonder if my experience with my now 12 year old will help. She has RAD and her MO is to push people away with various negative behaviors. Throughout the years, she has often latched onto a particular relational/emotional behavior and it is not until I do what I call ‘taking it off the table’ that she is free to actually feel (not just behave) differently. I find that when she is not allowed to engage in a particular negative behavior (such as saying ‘I hate you’), she actually stops thinking it and then even stops feeling it. This particular type of restriction is actually very freeing to her.

    Of course, 3-year-olds are extra tricky because Terrible Threes and all that…but I would encourage you to make the behaviors you describe unacceptable. Try to find a consequence that really matters to him when he says those things to you and let him know that disrespect will not be tolerated. I think it’s possible and perhaps even probable that if you take the behavior off the table, he will just stop thinking about it. And if he stops thinking about it, that will free him to stop feeling it and even replace those feelings with other things.

    I always want my kids to have their feelings and not stuff them. I think that’s extremely important. But in some cases, I’ve found that they need something a little different so they can be free to have different feelings that they might actually want to have.

    When my 12-year-old was about 10, she was going through a particularly rough time and began threatening to run away. This, of course, got lots of reaction and attention. She didn’t really want to run away, she just didn’t know how to deal with her troubling feelings and emotions, so she sort of stumbled onto this threat. And then she began thinking about it all the time. After dealing with this for a long time, I had a light bulb moment and felt convicted to take that off the table for her. So, during a time when she wasn’t angry, I let her know that any time she threatened to run away, she would have a consequence that she really didn’t like. Not only did she stop threatening to run away (after experience her consequence), but she would tell you that she truly stopped considering it. And she is happier and more at peace now that she’s not under her own pressure of considering running away. The power of the threat and hurtful statement was gone, so she just moved on and was able to more freely embrace feeling safe and permanent in her new home.

    Obviously, it’s often more complicated than that, but sometimes I find that it can be more simple than we think.

  5. Kim
    April 25, 2017

    My adopted daughter had also experienced rejection from her bio mom. She was raised until 9 yo by her stepdad and a stepmom who rejected her as well. She finds it easy to connect with my husband, but often pushes me away. At school events she will run to hug him, but act like I don’t exist. It can be hurtful, but I also see that little toddler inside, yearning so hard for a Mothers love, even as she pushes me away. When I touch her shoulder at church and she leans into me. When I hug her and she lays on me (she’s taller than me now) and ‘grunts’ her love. When she asks me to sing a lullaby to her even though she sings better and is almost 16 years old.
    I’ve heard that it takes just as long for a child to begin to feel secure as they spent being insecure. So we’re going to be great in about…well, just about 11 more years. So while I’m not on the other side of this yet, I see that flickering light of hope at the end of the tunnel. I want her to feel that she’s fallen into an ocean of love and grace that is inescapable, regardless of how she feels or acts towards me. His love, and His love through me are greater than her fears or my fears. I pray that you feel Gods arms around your family, and that you hold on tight for the ride. Many blessings on this journey!

  6. Cyndi
    April 25, 2017

    Early in our placement our social worker would always tell me, “4 months is just the beginning. It’s just baby steps.” And it is so true. When we are in a rough patch I focus on the small positives and look for growth and call a trusted confidante and tell her all my conflicting feelings. And she tells me, “Just because it is important and right and godly doesn’t mean it is easy.” As the months pass you’ll look back and realize he is healing. And read The Connected Child, of course!


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