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!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh the irony!

A fellow parent had a concern with Beyond Consequences because it felt like she was being told not to give our kids any consequences, and that all the responsibility was being given to the parents and the kids didn't have to do anything.

We've had similar concerns with Beyond Consequences. Just like with medicine, not every technique or treatment works the same way, if at all, with every child. That said, I do like Beyond Consequences because it helps me remember why my child is acting the way he or she is, and have more empathy and patience with them. It does make me feel like all of the burden is on the parent, but I interpret it to mean that we should not give consequences In The Heat Of The Moment because the kids are shut down and unable to process it. For example, if the child begins yelling and screaming at you over not wanting to do a chore, this is not the time to be punishing them. Instead help them regulate and calm and then later, when the child is emotionally stable reintroduce the concept or discuss consequences.

Chores are a huge trigger for Kitty. If I pushed consequences in the heat of the battle, she would rather die than comply, so would end up being grounded for life, have 5 pg writing assignments, have nothing in her room (because it was all taken away)… and I would most likely have a damaged relationship, bite marks, smashed cabinets, suicidal and homicidal threats, yet another visit from the police with hours wasted in the lobby of the local psych hospital getting her signed in, and 2 weeks of visiting her at said hospital (in case you haven’t guessed yes, this actually happened over being asked to put a load of dishes in the dishwasher). Obviously she didn’t much care about being grounded or any other consequences then. I’m not saying this still might not have happened, but under the same circumstances when I focused on empathy and trying to help her emotionally regulate and blew off actually getting the chore done the severity of the meltdown was much less severe.

Now I look at things that trigger her and try to find ways to keep them from happening or being so severe. Maybe break it down into smaller pieces if possible, or put it at times when she is a little more fresh and emotionally regulated.

Cleaning the kitchen was a big trigger that ALWAYS caused big issues. Rather than fuss at her and force her to comply, or drop the issue entirely, we broke the chore down into smaller pieces. Now she does the floors on Tuesday, wipes down the stovetop and wipes the front of the refrigerator on Wednesday, and on Saturdays she wipes down the front of the cabinets. Rather than assigning a day to do dishes, we finally decided to assign a time. That way if she misses it because she can’t handle it then we only miss one load and we don’t get as much backlog (this is huge for a family of our size). We also assigned her chores that don’t matter so much if they don’t get done. Sometimes one of us helps her get her chores done when she looks like she’s overwhelmed. As she gets better she can handle more.

So here's the irony. Tonight I had a huge fight with her because she didn’t want to do the dishes! *sigh*

I lost my temper and yelled at her. I rarely yell (like maybe 3 times in the last 3 years), but I'm tired of being told,

  • Kitty: "I'll unload and that's all I'm going to do... I'll come back later and do it.
(I should be thinking, she needs a break to keep from getting overwhelmed, but instead I'm thinking, yea right, you'll never come back).
  • Kitty: "You love your kids more than me."
(I should be thinking this means Kitty needs reassurance of my love, but instead I'm thinking I'm so tired of this and I know I have no way of convincing her I love her too, no matter how often or in how many ways I say I love her and my hearts big enough to love all my kids and more.)
  • "No one else does their chores."
(I should be thinking Kitty is feeling that she's being forced to do more than others and feeling picked on. Instead I'm thinking, yea right, you just can't they think of anything original to say so you pulled out the same tired old argument that you've heard everyone use. I'm also thinking that if this was an accepted excuse then none of the kids would ever do chores again so no way I can let her get away with this.)
  • Kitty: "You never make Bob do her chores... I have homework too"
(I should be thinking Kitty is jealous and feels that others are getting things, privileges, that I want. Instead I'm thinking nice try at distracting, but I ain't falling for that. Yea, you have a little bit of homework now (a few weeks ago the IEP team decided she was ready to start trying homework), but nothing like the hours and hours that Bob does, and you don't do it anyway).
  • Kitty: "I hate this family. I never had to do chores in foster care."
(I should be thinking Kitty is scared and wanting to push us away. Instead I'm not responding to the hate the family part and arguing with her. Every family has chores. The chores may be different in other places, but this is how we do chores in our family.)
  • "You're going to stand there and criticize how I do the dishes. You don't criticize anyone else or tell anyone else what to do even though Ponito obviously did it wrong."
(I should be thinking one of Kitty's biggest triggers is criticism. Instead I told her, in less abrubt terms, that's because you both do it wrong, but I'm not usually there when Ponito loads the dishwasher.
  • Kitty: "I'd rather do kitty litter every day. I just hate dishes. I don't want to do them.
(I don't even know what I should be thinking. All I want to say is, tough toenails. I don't know anyone who likes doing dishes, but everyone has to deal with dishes and everyone in our family does them. Put on your big girl panties and just do them. All you have to do is load and unload a freakin' dishwasher!)
  • Kitty: "I'm just never going to eat again, then I don't have to do dishes."
(Truthfully I know she has food issues and I think this is tangled in this. I should be thinking she's afraid of not having food and she's doesn't have control- which is scary for her. Instead I just told her, we all clean up messes we didn't make. You're doing dishes anyway. I thought but didn't say, that there was no way she'd miss a meal - and I was definitely right on that one - although she did leave a bunch of food on her plate - one of her biggest complaints.)
Dinner was late, which didn't go over with Kitty who was "starving" (instantly forgot she wasn't going to eat. After I yelled at her she stormed out of the room. I told her I was going to be standing within 4 feet of her at all times if she didn't go to her room. She eventually went to her room. Normally I'd follow her and help her emotionally regulate, but tonight I needed to finish making dinner and didn't really want to deal with her. She cried in her room and came out still angry. We talked briefly and she calmed down a little.


J. said...

we are big believers in the BC model for those exact reasons and once we stopped handing out conseuences int he moments of panic/rage they began to lessen. Our child do not live in world were they never get in trouble instead they live ina world wher the consequence comes when they are calm and able to talk - sometimes that is the next day and it usually has to do with fixing whatever you did or doing soemthing nice for the person you hurt.

GB's Mom said...

The model makes a lot of sense, especially with our damaged kids. There are times when I know what I should do, and don't. Lack of patience, lack of time, or perspective out the window- what ever the reason, there are times I fail. You are doing a great job of "Muddling through Mayhem"! Hugs!

Mom 4 Kids said...

You are doing a great job! :-)