No matter the age, children that have been in foster care can appear to be fiercely independent. This occurs as a matter of survival. Over the years they have had to learn to take care of themselves and to take control. Seeing this in young children can be shocking as your instincts tell you they should be reliant on adults and need help.
We try to balance junior's need to be independent while still maintaining control and providing structure. It is important for them to feel like they have what they need but know that they aren't in charge and calling the shots. Many adoptees have experienced hunger and neglect, as a result they have learned to fend for themselves - if they don't feed themselves then nobody will.
Junior has learned to ask permission to do things, but he doesn't always do it. The bottom shelf of the refrigerator has fruit and snacks for him, he also has a snack bucket in a bottom cupboard and one in his locker at school. When he asks for a snack we rarely say no - exceptions are if it is a few minutes before dinner or right after a meal when he refused to eat what was given to him. We will sometimes direct him towards certain items like a piece of fruit or yogurt, but often we let him pick what he wants.
Lately, thanks to Master Chef, he has been wanting to cook complete meals for us. He has two cookbooks, and a set of knives and oven mitts from The Curious Chef. He is still learning how to safely use the items but we are slowly letting him do more in the kitchen on his own. Some gentle guidance is also used to direct him towards things that are actually edible.
Yesterday, he wanted to make me lunch. He started suggesting some strange collection of ingredients, thankfully I was able to direct him to food we actually had and would make a good sandwich. He toasted the bread, shredded the cheese, and asked me to heat up pulled pork for him. He was so proud of the lunch he made me.
Even though he is independent at times, he still reaches out for comfort and reassurance. When he first was placed with us, he would rarely cry after falling (which he does frequently). Lately there has been an increase in tears after stubbing his toe or falling down. He seems to have realized that when he is hurt there is somebody there to comfort him and he is not alone.