Tirza and Ada have a creepy behavioral nuance:  Fits that escalate into shrieking tantrums.  If they get mad enough, they will pull their own hair and fingers or otherwise harm themselves.  Then they come to us for comfort because pulling their own hair out hurts.

The self-mortification is a weird quirk about foster children that we expected to bypass by adopting infants from foster care.  Here’s a weird mystery of the universe:  Instability and trauma affects children even while they are in the womb.  Hoarding, textbook-severity tantrums, hurting themselves, and other problems can show up in children who have been safe, well-fed and carefully attended since birth.

Unless they are hurting someone else or blatantly defying us, we try to influence behavior by ignoring the bad.  If they think pulling their hair and waving their arms wildly while yodeling will win them attention, they are wrong.  If we do anything about it, we send them to another room where they can be as loud as they want.  When they are ready to be quiet and kind, they can rejoin the party.  No comfort is given for self-inflicted wounds.

The party is an important part.  We shouldn’t neglect everyone and then banish the loud ones to throw violent self-mutilating tantrums in isolation.  We want to reinforce good behavior with attention and praise:  Make the baseline existence in our home a happy, fun adventure where chores are matter-of-fact transitions between play times.

“What a fun time we had with all these toys!  Now it’s time for snack in the kitchen.  We can eat as soon as the toys are put away.”

“Yummy.  That was good food.  What do we do next?  Wash our hands?  Sounds good.  Put our dishes away?  Okay.  You kids sure know what you’re doing.”

“What a great day.  Now it’s time for bed.  Pick up all the toys you want to keep.  If you want, Mommy and Daddy can clean up for you and give all your stuff back to the store to sell to someone else.”

“Now that our room is clean, what do we do to get ready for bed?  Who has their pajamas on?  Who wants to try potty first?  If you get all ready, you get a penny to put in your bucket.”

We get most of these ideas from the Love and Logic series of parenting books.