You won’t gain wisdom from yes or no questions

10 Apr

Seems like I’m always writing posts to adopting and adoptive parents, and yet, and here I am again on the same quest. It’s a new day and new try in finding the words you may be able to hear and understand the disconnect I see everywhere I look between adoptive parents and adoptees.

How about vowing to never ask an adoptee if their adoption experience was positive or negative and/or if they love their adoptive parents?

Why? Because what you are asking them is not only rude, they are also deeply personal questions that seldom have an easy yes or no answer and even if they did answer, you’ve received an incomplete and utterly useless answer if you are wanting to do the best you can for your child.  How would you answer a question that expects a yes or no answer when the yes or no question encompasses your entire life to date? Or do you really think an adoptee can live a charmed life of happily ever after with nary a thought about being adopted and everything in their life was beautiful, or they lived the polar opposite? Or did you ever consider that an answer to such a complicated life could be both, and based on the age, the answer may change, that lived experiences and wisdom gained create richer and fuller answers that are seldom black and white, but will offer a wealth of wisdom to store away?

Many times I’ve asked myself if people really see adoptees as unique people with deeply complicated stories? So I’m asking you to answer that question – how do you see adoptees?

If you want to know how different adoptees have reacted to having adoption as their story, why not ask them about their adoption experience, what was easy, what was challenging, how their feelings changed over time? By asking that way you are acknowledging that adoption is a solution for a child who needed a family which is never optimal and you start with the premise that the results will be mixed, some good, some bad, some okay, and that most adoptees will have a mix of all. Asking open-ended questions will also likely free them to offer ways that helped and didn’t help at specific stages in their answers. Asking that way will provide you a wealth of information rather than asking limiting questions with yes or no answers ever will.

If you change your approach you’ll gain knowledge, adoptees will feel respected instead of used and judged. Try it, because these rude, shallow, yes or no questions won’t give you the knowledge you need to be the best parent you can be to your child.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ― Albert Einstein






Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Adoption


Tags: , , , ,

10 responses to “You won’t gain wisdom from yes or no questions

  1. Lara/Trace

    April 10, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    This is a great post, Tao and deserved wide attention. In my history, I was asked to talk about adoption and my experience at a workshop way back in 2005. These were social workers and professionals. They were so shocked it was like they didn’t believe me. One social worker told me later that the profession has blinders on because once an adoptee is adopted, they don’t check on them to find out how they are coping or surviving the experience. But on an optimistic note: we have nver had so many aodptee memoirs available as now, and they are relevant if an adoptive parent wants to read up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judith Land

      April 10, 2019 at 5:23 pm

      Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

      Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      April 10, 2019 at 5:42 pm

      Thank you and yes Lara/Trace, there are many memoirs written by adoptees. ???

      Did I read that you have a new book out? If yes, please feel free to drop a link/talk about it here.


    • Pj

      April 10, 2019 at 6:55 pm

      About 5 years ago I mentioned to a social worker that I was adopted. She worked for a large non-profit that provided services,housing and adoption for vulnerable kids. She told me she was thinking of adoption but there were so many decisions,one of which was “ do ( not when!) do you tell the child they’re adopted.” I was speechless. Once I found my voice all I could say was that I always knew I was adopted…


      • TAO

        April 10, 2019 at 7:40 pm

        Unbelievable – yet there are STILL AP’s who don’t tell. Sigh.


  2. Paige Adams Strickland

    April 12, 2019 at 11:40 am

    The Yes/No questions are very limiting. Even when I worked in sales we were encouraged to look for other ways to ask the same questions: “Can I help you ?” vs. “HOW can I help you?” , “Are you looking for something, in particular, today?” vs. “WHAT can I help you find today?”, etc. YES / NO is not an authentic conversation.


    • TAO

      April 12, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      Exactly – yet yes or no questions are spouted out by HAPS and APS continuously.


  3. Lesley

    April 15, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Locus of control is when I was not able to make decisions as I was the Infant…Much of therapy is getting us (client) to accept responsibility for our difficulties….However my difficulties began with government policies…like our Indigenous population and residential schools. My mother went to jail (reform school) because she was pregnant at 15 years. She was kept there until she turned 18 and then was informed she could not have her baby back until she had a job and could support herself and the baby. She was pregnant with me within 6 months of being released and told that…Trauma is not WHAT happens to you…Trauma is what happens to your brain as it tries to cope with what is happening to you

    I am beginning to get moments of absolute clarity in my head as I process and uncover all my unconscious behaviors. I was on the site of trauma DR. Bessel Van Der KolkM.D. and his essay was explaining how the brain gets rewired by trauma and a respondent used the word Locus of Control for those of us who had no voice because as (infants we as distinct humans were invisible)

    What follows is my first coherent telling of my trauma

    Locus of Control. Thank you thank you. Trauma began in-utro as I was the second infant lost to adoption. That was compounded by 5 families 3 different names 2 adoptions (1st ended with me going into failure to thrive between 8-14 months). All this by 19 months. My attachment style is secure dismissive and OMG I have been led by this my whole life and the attending difficulties are all classic. High Resilience and the final family I got had 4 children …3 of which were adopted.

    These parents had a plan to raise healthy strong independent children and they gave me skills. Sadly I did not attach and I did not know (inside myself) nor realize they loved me until I was 37. I lived with waiting for them to throw me away (unconsciously) but that was it. I was raised to be responsible for myself…In fact I realize I raised myself using the skills I was given. I have been held responsible for creating my difficulties.

    Locus of Control I am NOT Responsible. Thank you It is the very specific policies the Government created that moved Infants around like furniture so that no one would become attached. 65 This year. I did not know my beginnings were Trauma…because no one set out to hurt me.

    I don’t know if you relate to any of this, feel free to share with your supports if this triggers stuff for you.

    Fuck I am Pissed



    • beth62

      April 16, 2019 at 3:55 pm

      Thank you Lesley. I am pissed too.



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