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Cause and Effect

I have one of those coffee makers that dispenses at the base. I simply hold my mug up to the maker and press the mug forward then hot coffee fills my cup. Once, I got distracted while filling my mug, the coffee overflowed all over my hand and the counter. Since that incident I have been more cautious while getting a cup of coffee. Why? I understand cause and effect.
The cause of my coffee accident was my failure to attend to what I was doing, the effect was burnt fingers and a mess to clean up. Seems elementary doesn’t it? To children with attachment issues or FAS, cause and effect doesn’t come this easily, nor does it come with repeated episodes of the the same problem.
Last weekend I woke Rafal up at 7:30 am so we could leave for drama practice at 8:30. I instructed him to get dressed quickly and go eat a bowl of cereal. An hour later, he was still sitting in his room in his pjs. He had to hurriedly dress and go straight to the car. He took every opportunity that day to complain that he was hungry. I reminded him that he had the opportunity to eat and he neglected to take it. His response-anger-towards me.
The next morning, I woke him for church and told him he had forty-five minutes to get dressed quickly and eat breakfast. Thirty minutes later he was still sitting in his pjs in his room. I reminded him of the time.
“You have fifteen minutes.”
“I didn’t get to eat,” he answered.
His response? Anger. He stomped down the stairs, “this is the same thing that happened yesterday.”
Great, he is making progress. He sees the cause. I thought wrong. He thought that I was the cause and he let me know it.
Later that morning I got into a conversation with another adoptive Mom about cause and effect and attachment. Her girls are struggling with logical thinking have been experiencing some of the same issues on a regular basis. This is how I explained it to her:
The early years are when children develop the understanding of cause and effect. It starts with the attachment cycle. It goes like this: Child feels discomfort> Child expresses discomfort (need) >Parent comforts child >Child feels comforted
When this cycle is broken in infancy, the baby is not able to attach to a parent/caregiver and may develop some form of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), depending on the severity of the neglect and inability of the parent to respond to the needs of the said infant.

“By mere definition of neglect, it is undeniable that children placed in orphanages at birth or at a young age are, in fact, victims of neglect. This is not because the orphanage staff doesn’t care for and love the children. Instead, it is because a child’s individual needs cannot be met in a group situation.
Out of necessity, children living in orphanages are forced into a routine, without the freedom to respond to physical and emotional cues relating to hunger, discomfort, bathrooming, pain, thirst, or a desire to be nurtured. The result is a pseudo-independence that mirrors the self-parenting label attached to neglected children in America.” Pg. 243 ,Parenting the Hurt Child

A child who has difficulty understanding cause and effect expect different results every time a scenario occurs as in Rafal’s morning patterns. Just because he sat for the better part of the morning on the first day doesn’t mean that if he did the same thing it should/would happen the same way the second morning.

When a baby is being raised in a alcohol/drug driven home, he may get fed one day, the next he may be ignored, the next he may be shaken and then fed. What kind of logic is developed then? The cause is there with varying effects.

The first years of a child’s life are so important to brain development. The attachment cycle ensures that a baby attaches to his parents and develops cause and effect thinking.

When a child does not have cause and effect thinking, he will expect the parent to react differently to the same scenario every time. I cannot tell you how many times I have said to Rafal, “I am not going to change my mind, I am the same person.”
Dr. Karen Purvis refers to attachment as ‘connection’. Connection is a great term to use because unconnected children do not make connections, they don’t GET IT.

How can you tell if a child doesn’t make connections (has cause and effect thinking)?
Check this list for just a few clues:
leaves belongings out in the elements and expects them not to change
blames you (Mom or Dad) for adverse circumstances
poor hygiene even after many lectures from Mom, dentist, doctor
has difficulty grasping time
difficulty grasping subjects that involve concrete concepts such as Math
expects people or circumstances to change because he is angry
when something good is happening, he is uncooperative, rebellious or angry
happy or smiling at socially inappropriate times
thinks he can defy the laws of nature on a regular basis
expects different results for the same cause

The best example that comes to mind in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court when the characters think that a road can go wherever it wants and will change it’s course on any given day. That’s how the mind of a child who doesn’t have logical thinking in place. Every day things will be out of control and different, he does his best to control things and people around him to make himself feel more safe and secure. He becomes locked into patterns of anger because he knows he can control something with it.
I’ll be blogging more about cause and effect thinking and how to help a child who doesn’t have it. I’ll finish with this. Habit must replace logic in this child’s life. There are many habits a parent must develop in order to help the child.

One thought on “

  1. Good post! I remember talking to you about this just the other day. It's tough, sometimes, for those of us that grasp cause-and-effect effortlessly to really understand how the brain functions without it. We need to slow down and pay attention to really be helpful.

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