This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

More about Daddy Discipline

You guys had excellent comments about Daddy Discipline so I wanted to address some of them.

Corey said, "How long has it been this way, and how long do you think you
can stand it?"

Hubby and I have always generally agreed on whatever discipline we use, because sometimes I get frustrated with the kids and overreact or get too focused on punishment. I'm especially prone to this with Bob (yes, the biochild - she can really push my buttons. It's genetic I'm sure). Still, I'm the one who comes up with the discipline (especially FAIR Club assignments), and if needed Hubby helps enforce it.

The kids usually do what Hubby says just because he says it. (He is a big teddy bear, but he's still 6 ft tall and 275lbs!) Because of Kitty's issues with men I generally am the one who helps her emotionally regulate, but Hubby can calm her down after a meltdown too (although sometimes he triggers the meltdowns). Hubby gives me a hard time about how often Bob and I butt heads and I sometimes wonder if this is one reason he doubts me when it comes to discipline because I'm sure it seems like I'm triggering Bob. (Sometimes it feels like Bob is RAD and has issues with her primary caregiver - me!).

Maybe it is me. I sometimes worry that Bob and Bear really are acting worse because of my issues.

It's only been in recent months with Bear's more blatant statements that he doesn't love me that I've been really losing my patience with him, and that Hubby has felt that he needs to take over discipline. Or maybe it's that Bear's behavior is worsening, causing a need for more stringent discipline (like alarming his door) and Hubby just doesn't want to monitor him more. Or maybe it's because Hubby's stress level has increased exponentially and he wants to be able to do less supervision than what I feel is necessary. I don't know.

How long do I think I can handle it?

I don't know. I hate this and want to stop. Don't have a lot of choice though.

"I know my son wants more than anything to be able to prove to himself that
I will love him no matter what wrongs he does me. The problem is, he doesn't
believe I can love him and punish him at the same time." - Struggling to Stand

Bear not only respects people who stand up to him and discipline him but that appears to be how he knows they love him! The strictest female assistant in the behavior program in middle school... the one who wouldn't put up with any of his crap? He called her his "second mother."

When Bear first got here I bent over backward trying to make him feel welcome. I let him walk all over me, and he treated me like Birthmom had taught him to (to take care of her and be her "little man."). It irritated me and felt patronizing. Still he intimidated me, and I hate conflict so I let him do it. Life wasn't totally, "Just wait 'till your father gets home," but Hubby did do most of the discipline... and hated it. He felt like the warden.

While Bear was in residential treatment, I put on my big girl panties and started standing up to him. I became the disciplinarian and didn't let him treat me that way anymore. It was hard for me, and I often checked in with Hubby and my therapist for affirmation. I found that Bear actually liked and respected me more, and life was easier for everyone when I was in control.

Since then I've had some backsliding (usually when my meds were out of whack), but I've been pretty content with how things were going.

Then I started feeling a lot of pressure from others (including Hubby) to lighten up on Bear because he was getting older (going to be graduating high school in a few years), and behaving pretty responsibly. It was hard for me, and I didn't totally agree, but I backed off. We let Bear have more classes out of his special school. I let him walk around the neighborhood without line of sight supervision. I let him get a job and earn money. That was at the beginning of this last Summer.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know how well that turned out*... not!

*for those who missed it - he started skipping Summer school, drinking, smoking marijuana, hanging out with his girlfriend (most likely having sex) and known druggies, lying, stealing, self-medicating, deliberately got himself kicked off the football team by lying about going to practice... and generally became horrible to be around.*

I feel that we gave Bear some freedom and he couldn't handle it (in fact, every time we give him some freedom something bad happens). I think it might have even scared him so much that he deliberately went off the deep end so that we would put him back in his safe, structured environment. While we did pull him back in some, we did not pull him back in completely.

This is where the disagreements began.

"Past that, you are wanting to be able to say, should he not turn out "good
enough", that you did your best. If you aren't doing the discipline, then how
can you feel you did your best? The thing is, there are no right answers. You
have no guarantee that if you could do everything your way, it will work. You
also have no guarantee that your husband's way will fail. " Struggling to Stand

I think that Bear needs structure and restrictions. I think his current desires to avoid the family and not be held accountable for his actions are because he is scared and needs us. I do not truly believe that he will ever be a "normal kid" who can function in society on his own, or if he is capable of it, that it will definitely not be anytime soon.

By the way, I don't think Hubby gets this. Hubby has been a responsible grown up since he was 7 years old. He doesn't really understand the kids' issues. He's good with them don't get me wrong, but he just can't comprehend why they act the way they do. It's like trying to explain color to a blind person - it's out of his realm. He listens to me when I tell him about what I've read or trainings I've been to, but...

How Hubby wants to handle Bear seems to be more focused on looking down the road. In Texas, kids can leave home at 17 (Bear will be 17 this July), and the police will do nothing to return them (although we're still legally liable). Hubby thinks we should be letting Bear try being a "normal teenager" because he's going to be on his own soon and if we don't it will be like throwing him in the ocean without even teaching him to swim. Also, if we make Bear "miserable" by restricting him the way I've been suggesting then Bear will most definitely leave in 6 months (which he often threatens to do). Hubby is also looking at our life and not wanting to have to continue being warden. He has so much stress on his plate that he just wants to let this one go.

So Hubby and I are at an impasse. Because I cannot give Bear what I think he needs by myself (structure and restrictions), I have let Hubby try his way. BUT I know it is going to be almost impossible to reel Bear back in when/if Hubby's way (continues) to fail. I feel we only have 6 months left until Bear turns 17, and we should be using this time to continue to help Bear understand the right way to do things. Plus, if we don't, then we all have to live with an out of control, intimidating, lying thief for as long as he chooses to live here (he won't graduate high school until just before he turns 19).

In some ways I wish Bear were mentally retarded (instead of borderline) or that there was some diagnostic test that said this is most definitely what he is and will be capable of, and what he won't. Instead, Hubby and the world see him as he looks on the outside... like a young adult. Instead of what he is on the inside - one very screwed up little kid.


Anonymous said...

Oh, but even with a diagnosis, you'd have the same problem. People see what they want to, no matter what is on the paper or what you tell them.

marythemom said...

StS, that's true. He has diagnoses, but they do not really define what he needs or how to handle him. I think because he has so many, then everyone focuses on the one they think they understand and recognize, and ignore the rest. And of course the one they think they recognize most often is "teenage boy."

I just wish it were as evident as him having amputated legs - people would stop expecting him to walk, or be as upset with me when I "force" him to use a wheelchair or prosthetic legs or something - no matter how much he says he doesn't need them.