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, March 2, 2010

Why I use the FAIR Club.

I got an excellent question in the comments section for which the answer would be too long for a comment so here it is:

Does the fair club work with children like your Bear? Is it as effective with him as it is with your other children. I only ask because I have read how you struggle to maintain a relationship with him. Does the FAIR club
make him ultimately feel like more a part of your family?


"Does the fair club work with children like your Bear?"
It depends on your definition of "works." Does it "fix" the kid? No. Is it more effective than everything else we've tried? Yes.

I do believe that the FAIR Club assignments are a good way to work with kids of trauma as long as you adjust it to accommodate their with attachment-challenges/ trauma/ mental health issues... While consequences/discipline (like the FAIR Club) usually don't work well with our kids {Structure and Caring Support generally works better}when you're trying to parent/ discipline multiple kids with different levels of needs, you can't ignore the fact that the other kids are watching. 

I was very aware that if the kids thought that their siblings were "getting away with" behaviors that they would typically have had consequences for then I would have a rebellion on my hands! The kids might feel that I care more about the child not getting disciplined and feel hurt and/or unloved. They would often act out and misbehave and try to "get away with" the same behaviors.

Of the more typical options for discipline, most have the opposite effect of what we want. I feel the FAIR Club gives me a chance to calm down and come up with better alternatives.

  • Spank or physically discipline. This is illegal while they are foster children, not going to help with attachment, and any punishment we come up with is nothing compared to the horrors that have happened to them in their life.

  • Yelling, lecturing, or criticizing. Most of our kids are hypersensitive to perceived criticism and could not handle being yelled at or lectured, and would automatically go into fight, flight or freeze mode (attack, dissociate or physically run away, or shut down).

  • Time outs are not age-appropriate and not recommended for kids who are trying to attach. Time-ins (staying near a parent so the parent can help the child emotionally regulate is preferred) and this is incorporated in the FAIR Club (4-Foot-Rule).

  • Writing lines ("I will not hit my sister") to me has always seemed a waste of time. The only advantage would be improving the child's writing skills, but at what cost? Turning language skills into a punishment is not encouraging the kids to learn to enjoy school.

  • Taking away privileges. The kids already feel like we treat the biokids (and everyone else) better. This can reinforce their feelings that they aren't good enough and don't deserve to be part of a family or have good things. Maybe this sometimes works, but isn't usually associated with the "crime."

  • Taking away possessions. This often triggers trauma - these kids have already lost sooo much. Plus, there are times when I need to simplify their lives (Kitty especially is easily overwhelmed by having clutter or too many things) if this is seen as a punishment then she would feel picked on.

  • Taking away allowance. Again, not directly associated with the "crime." My kids have very little concept of money and are used to going without.

  • Grounding. The part I hate about grounding is the kid can behave horribly for the day, week, or month that they are grounded and they still get out unless you ground them again. The FAIR Club makes it subjective so if they need to stay grounded longer to feel safe or get it under control they can, but if they "get it" then they could be out in less than 48 hours.

  • Extra chores. My biggest problem with this one was enforcing. Making kids do stuff they don't want to do (especially unattached teens). Just didn't happen. If they did do the chore, then getting them to do the chores well, also didn't happen.

  • Star chart. This was a pain in the rear to enforce and required a lot of work on the parent's part. If the kids don't earn stars or as many stars as everyone else, the kids feel worthless. If they earn stars they didn't feel they deserved they learned not to value themselves and what they do. Most importantly, everything became focused on rewards only.

  • Set punishments. Giving the same punishments every time, we've found that the kids tend to decide the crime is worth the time. It also means we feel we must give the child a warning first that the punishment is ___________. This means the kids often get away with things the first time because they "didn't know" it was a punishable offense.

  • Nothing/Lenient. Just ignoring the behavior. Sometimes we're just being nice and giving them a break. The child might feel like this means we don't care or that we can be manipulated and taken advantage of which makes them feel unsafe [Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?].

  • Super strict/disciplinarian/warden. The kids feel that you don't care about them because all you care about is your obsession with the rules. They feel why try? because they're never going to be perfect. Which is scary in and of itself. [If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect, You'll Leave]

Enforcement of punishments is incredibly difficult too, so one thing I like about the FAIR Club is that the child has a choice in whether or not to comply and when- taking some of the pressure of enforcing compliance off me. In the meantime, they are getting Structure and Caring Support! 

My goal is to help the child make better choices and learn from his/her mistakes. I try to keep consequences logical when natural is not possible because I feel children learn best from natural consequences. Also, it helps them learn "if/then" (aka cause and effect) better.

I want them to understand that restitution is very important and their choices affect others.


"Is it as effective with him as it is with your other children."
Yes, I think that the FAIR Club is as effective with Bear as anything is going to be.

As a teenager, Bear's developmentally supposed to be separating from his family and making his own choices. Because of his severe issues, especially with impulse control, he is not ready to do this. We try to balance helping him make good choices with respecting his needs for autonomy, but admittedly we lean more toward helping him make good choices. He has repeatedly shown he is not ready for separation.

I do feel that the FAIR Club has helped us and Bear work up to the stricter supervision that he obviously needs. He wouldn't have tolerated this level of supervision when he first got here. By giving him the supervision he needed when he got in trouble, we were able to slowly introduce the stricter levels of supervision, and then not lighten up as much when he got out. [Structure and Caring Support]

I love the FAIR Club for ALL of my kids. Bob has always been a "spirited" child. We tried tons of discipline methods with her and none of them worked for long. The FAIR Club works well for her. I love that it is so adjustable for each child. Bob's writing assignments can be more complicated and lengthy- especially for repeat offenses. When Ponito was younger we could be more lenient with him. Kitty couldn't /can't handle almost any discipline and has major learning disabilities so we could adjust it for her too.


"Does the FAIR club make him ultimately feel like more a part of your family?"
Honestly, no.

I think it did for Kitty because she saw Bob and Ponito getting in trouble too. Plus there were times when I let her off the hook which made her feel like I cared about her more than the other kids (doesn't work this way of course, but it made her feel closer to me).

Bear just feels punished and like we're wardens. I think what makes him feel closest to Hubby and me is when he acts up and we keep him. When he went to the RTC and we visited every week and took him home upon his release... that made him feel like we cared about him. His love language is so obviously Quality Time.


Most of my kids are outgrowing the FAIR Club, but I think that is because they are getting to the point where they don't need it, not because it doesn't work. 

These are some of the things that did work for us for our kids with trauma issues:

Structure and Caring Support
Handling Dysregulation and Meltdowns -
Why Won't My Child Just Behave?


GB's Mom said...

It sounds like you found something, while not perfect, is at least maintaining Bear.

Kristina P. said...

Mary, I think it's great to make the blankets! And you can do whichever you would prefer. I would love to have them for my drive, but I totally understand if you don't want to ship them. I'm sure local homes could put them to good use too.

Melissa said...

Thanks so much for answering my questions. I am always interested in how other people do things. Have a great day.