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Need advice: My 4 year old told me "You're not my Mom"

My 4.5 year old son just told me and my husband, in 2 separate ocassions, “you’re not my mom” and “your’re not my dad”. Is this normal? Both times he was mad at us and in the past he has said “II don’t like you” but nothing like this. When it happened with me it was bath time and I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I was just surprised and jokinly asked: and who is your mama? He said, Grandma! I thought it was funny so I didn’t say anything else.  I just hugged him and helped him change into his pajamas.

He was adopted from birth and this summer we had our first real conversation about his adoption story. The reaction was better than expected, when we mention adoption he always exclaimed. “like me!!”  He is such a happy boy, with a strong personality, very assertive and sweet.  Is this normal? How should I address something like this in the future?


very, very normal! Likely it meant a lot more to you than it did to him. but still hard to hear.  even biological kids will say this! and kids learn real quick how to push our buttons, so likely at some point you will hear this again! other classics are: I wish I had a different mom/dad, I wish you never adopted me, you’re not my REAL mom/dad,  I wish I still lived with my real mom/dad, I’m going to run away and find my real mom/dad, and of course,  I hate you!  You did the right things, just stay calm, reassure him that he is loved,  and don’t feed into it.  My daughter went through a phase from about age 5 to 7 where she idolized her birth mom: birth mom was beautiful and had “cherry red lips” and always wore high heels and makeup, and birth mom would never make her do chores or homework, and would buy her anything she wanted. It was difficult constantly hearing what a saint her birthmom was, I am so happy that phase is over! Very tough for us to hear, but perfectly normal.

Posted by rn4kidz on Dec 04, 2017 at 1:48am

Super normal. I’ve got a 4.5 yr old, and I get “you can’t come to my birthday party” and other statements to express anger, hurt, or frustration.

Sounds like you handled it well.

Posted by Supdub on Dec 04, 2017 at 2:03am

Yup. I even wrote a blog post about it:

Posted by rredhead on Dec 04, 2017 at 3:29am

This is one of the many things that fills my tummy with dread. I know there will come a time for me with my daughter. She is only 2 but she is already so strong willed and sassy. I think you handled it great. I hope I can too because inside it will break my heart. I plan to tell her that while what she said hurt me I still love her no matter what. Keep strong momma!

Posted by KChiarilli on Dec 04, 2017 at 3:59am

Thank you so much guys! I was a little worry after I googled this behavior and only mentioned teenagers wink Rredhead, I thought I also had a couple of more years before I’ll hear this from him. Supdub, I’m sure it was his way of expressing his frustration with us. I need to read more about this. Thanks again!

Posted by MamaBeth22 on Dec 04, 2017 at 2:09pm

My daughter did a similar thing at 4 where she would say, when upset/in trouble, “I want to go home”. To her “real” home with birthparents. We had a hilarious interaction when I was trying to get her to take a bite of the fish I had made for dinner. I finally said, even if you lived with birthparents they would make you take a bite too. She looked at me confused and then through tears said, “they’re having the same thing?! That’s…weird.” We still laugh with the birthparents about that one. After hearing it a couple times I finally sat her down and told her that although she was born to them she has never lived with her birthparents (we brought her home from the hospital). She seemed so relieved to know we had always been her home. I think the big thing at that age is the sense of not fully understanding their own story. There are so many parts and they do get moved, even when adopted at birth, from one family or one place to another at a time they don’t remember and apparently 4 is when they start to comprehend that but aren’t old enough to ask the right questions or necessarily come to the right conclusions. She is 12 now, the questions and issues keep getting harder but the thing that kept me calm at 4 keeps me calm today. I am her mother, I love her, I know she loves me, I know she feels safe in our family, I know we are all in this for life. And the beauty of open adoption, I know her birthparents are with us and support us and love her too. It doesn’t make it easy but it does give a lot of stability to a sometimes unstable feeling experience.

Posted by Isabelle's Mom on Dec 04, 2017 at 3:49pm

My oldest, now eight, never did this.  My daughter. now six, will often exclaim in a rage over anything “I am going to a new family” or “I am going to another house”.  Sometimes I think she is testing us, or maybe she is trying to work out her story of starting with one family and ending up with another, or maybe she just hopes someone out there might let her eat butter straight out of the container.  wink

I think you did great.  I use my daughter’s statements as an opportunity to remind all three of our kids (also all adopted from birth) that we are a family and that cannot be changed.  I tell them that we were a family from the day we brought them home, and then we went to court and the judge banged the gavel and made it official, and it cannot be undone.  We do not have an open relationship with birth families, but we do updates with pictures and letters, we speak of them frequently and we look at pictures from when they were born that include birth moms/families.  I think it is important to honor the birth families and equally important at this age to reinforce that adoption is permanent, and that the reasons for the adoption were not the “fault” of the adoptee.

Posted by jszmom on Dec 04, 2017 at 6:20pm

My 12 yo has said a few times I am not her real mom.  I think the first time she was 6 or so.  It has always been that she is angry I won’t let her do something or make her do something.  The first time it stung!  But I also usually say her birth parents would probably make her do or not do the same thing.  I don’t react emotionally to it and it blows over pretty quickly.  I know when I lash out I sometimes say things I regret….Kids are no different and have less self control.

Posted by mamallama on Dec 04, 2017 at 7:08pm

You might clarify…you are right I am not your birth mom but I am your adoptive mom.

Posted by Regina on Dec 05, 2017 at 1:46pm

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