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!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A week to reflect

I took this week off of work to think about my life and what I should be doing with it. Here's what I came up with so far:

1. I had a traumatic childhood - truama with a small t not a capital T, but still tough.
2. I have deliberately chosen a really stressful life.
3. I am depressed - This is one reason why I've been sitting on my tookus at work all day and not getting anything done. After a 2 hour session with my therapist, I have gone to my doctor for an increase in my anti-depressant.
4. I am overwhelmed - I need to find ways to fill my "love tank." I am so drained that I have nothing left to give the kids, Hubby or anyone else.
5. I am not healthy - I need to find ways to get exercise and be active - this is probably contributing to my depression. I'm still searching for time for this one!
6. Hubby and I are not in agreement about my role in our company.

Almost 2 years ago, when we bought the company and I started working there, I saw it as a
company that pretty much ran itself and I could work part to three quarter time - and be able to spend time with the kids who were/are VERY needy. I hated my job and had sales, marketing and some design experience so it made sense.

Within a month though Hubby needed to get out of engineering and came to work at the company too. We always knew the company couldn't support us both, but Hubby planned to work there while he looked for another job and he wanted to help the company expand. He's handling all the finances of the company and we're not sure what would happen if he left. He also works 8-9 hour days so since we drove to work together, I was suddenly stuck at work all day - without enough to do. I was encouraged to work on more areas (making cold calls, doing more marketing and advertising, and other business enticing activities) but discouraged from working on anything relating to design - so I wasn't able to use my creative side. As I became less needed and under more stress, I have shut down more and given away more of my responsibilities. Then I hired an amazing business development specialist who does sales and marketing and is a lot like me (without the depression) -so I became even less needed.

Saturday night Hubby talked to a trusted business friend and they discussed Hubby staying with the company instead of me (we've always assumed Hubby had more marketable skills so would be the better choice for leaving). The friend suggested that Hubby's skills were more needed by the company and maybe he should be the one staying. Our friend also thought he could help me find a job that pays almost double what my last (admittedly low paying) job was paying. Which certainly wouldn't hurt our financial situation (I haven't taken home a paycheck in a year, it has been even longer for Hubby).

I decided to stay home this week to see if I could figure out what was wrong with me and why I couldn't seem to stick with a job. Attachment disorder? Definitely depression.

At my last job when I took some time off, the relief was so strong that I knew the toxic environment was a big part of what was making me miserable. This time I was still depressed. The days weren't so bad (activities and lunch with friends and family), TV, and of course computer time, but almost the minute the kiddoes got home - boom. I shut down more and got irritated with them.

So after therapy, lunch with my dad, a long phone call with my Mom, breakfast with a good friend who has special needs kids and is also bipolar, and plans to change my medications I decided I would be able to get a new job and it could be a good thing. But when Hubby got home he was surprised?! He wanted what was best for me, but now wanted to be the one leaving our company! I'm so confused.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


A troll nearly ate Torina and she is now hiding under the bridge at a Busy Intersection. Her blog, as a result, is now private and you will need a password to get in. If you are a reader, you can email her at torina.busyintersection at yahoo dot com for access.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Break - No break

Very little arguing and difficulty getting everyone up all week. Tuesday, Bear took his bath and pointedly informed me he was only in there 20 minutes. He didn't want me to make him take baths at night. I saw it as "proof" that it could be done. Now of course he's slowly worked his way back to over an hour. *sigh* Kitty has been happy as a clam with her reduced chores. I've got to admit it's been so much easier.

My dad and step-mom are coming into town tonight and staying with my little sister for 2 weeks. You know those relatives that you want to impress because you feel like they are judging you? These are "those" relatives for me.

My mom got pneumonia last weekend so is still flat on her back. Luckily my step-dad has stepped up to the plate and is watching the kids for us at their house.

This means the kids aren't home making messes, but it also means chores are supposed to be done in the morning before Grandma's or at night. Truthfully neither is really happening. I decided to take today off for a marathon house cleaning session. I left Kitty at Grandma's (smart me!), and the rest of the kids were supposed to help. Didn't really happen. *sigh* I ended up playing the Little Red Hen.

My little sister gave me a bunch of new furniture so I'm trying to rearrange everything. She is sooo different from me. She saved up and bought the exact pieces of furniture she wanted. Brand new expensive stuff. Less then 6 weeks later she decides she doesn't like them after all!
So I have a gorgeous mahogany china cabinet that I have to figure out how to get here because it doesn't fit in my mom's mini van. Three beautiful bar stools, a brand new stainless steel refrigerator (sister wanted one with a water/ice dispenser in front), 2 pretty mahogany dining chairs, a mahogany coffee table and end table, and a dark wood bookshelf.

My sister's fickle behavior is definitely to my benefit! Too bad she lets her kids and dogs trash most of her furniture. She has beautiful, expensive taste, but most pieces are covered in melted candy or plastic slime, trashed from being jumped on or been chewed by dogs. She just buys new stuff when it's ruined or she's tired of it. My kids trash our furniture too (although I don't "let" them, but I don't have the money to replace it).

So I spent all day scrubbing refrigerators and and kitchen cabinets, and fussing at the kids to get back to work! Almost nothing done. *sigh*

Took Bob and Bear to the eye doctor for a check up. Bear qualifies for Medicaid so he was free! *yeah!* I almost forgot to ask because I'm so used to going to doctors that don't take Medicaid. Unfortunately Bob was not free. I ended up paying over $150 for Bob's new contacts. Not sure how I'm going to cover that. Guess I'm going to have to get creative with the grocery money. Now I just need to find somewhere to fill Bear's glasses prescription. Maybe somewhere that takes our private insurance and Medicaid?! Does that exist? Would be so great if we didn't have to pay for new frames (he doesn't qualify for new frames under our insurance for another year).

Tomorrow I get to finish cleaning. I hope I don't make the whole family insane.

Spring Break - evening of Day 1

Poor Hubby started the day being yelled at by Kitty and Bear, his day didn't get much better. The internet at work was cut off for lack of payment (had to pay to get that back on), more money issues. *sigh* We see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is sooo dark and long.

Picked up the kids and headed home. They were bickering as usual. I informed them that chores are going to be done differently. Kitty and Ponito will be sharing dishes on the weekend (so Hubby and I can supervise). That means Bear and Bob will be alternating dishes Monday through Thursday. I informed them there would be other changes too, but didn't go into detail - mostly to protect Kitty's privacy (as much as I could anyway). I also told them that doing their chores in the morning wasn't working so I expected everyone to do tomorrow's chores tonight. This didn't actually happen though. *sigh*

Once home, Hubby made dinner and I reworked the chore chart. I explained how the Star Chart worked to Kitty. She was excited because it meant it was no longer her day to do dishes!

The family ended up watching a movie with my sister and her children (who came over unexpectedly).

No one took a bath,
no one did chores,
but everyone did go to bed almost on time!

Spring Break - morning of Day 1

Ominous music!

Monday morning started with the arguing. No one wanted to get up. No one wanted to get dressed. No one wanted to do chores. No one wanted to eat breakfast. Kitty of course was the loudest and most argumentative (we didn't tell her about the star chart until Monday evening). I finally got everyone to do their chores (and Kitty to stop yelling at Hubby).

As usual, Bear got up without too much arguing, and disappeared into the bathroom. I do not know what he does in there for over an hour - nor do I really want to know. We're pretty sure he sleeps in the tub at least part of the time. About a year ago, he accidentally pulled the soap dish off the wall (for the second time) and the tile cracked when we tried to reapply it so we cannot use the shower in there - only the bath. And when I say "we" I mean Bear. No one else will use that bathroom - usually because it smells. The girls use our shower, and Ponito likes my big bathtub.

ONE and A HALF HOURS LATER (after much fussing on our part!) he comes out of the bathroom. Hubby fussed at him. We needed to get to work, and Bear hadn't eaten, gotten dressed, or done any of his chores yet. Everyone else was done.

Bear sat down in the living room and started to sulk. Hubby kept talking. Bear started demanding his "right" to be left alone when he was irritated. Hubby kept talking - trying to figure out what is going on.

Bear's time in the bathroom has gotten beyond ridiculous. He often goes to the bathroom just before we are all about to leave the house and doesn't come out for 45 minutes, of course making us late. Every morning he comes downstairs 2 minutes before the bus is supposed to be there. Half dressed, no shoes, no breakfast and no lunch made. Luckily he takes a special ed bus with only one other child on it, so they wait for him - every day. Talking to him in the morning is a sure way of getting your head bitten off - especially if you ask him a question or criticize him.

Bear of course brought in the kitchen sink to the discussion with Hubby (meaning he brought up irrelevant stuff, not discussed the dishes!). He avoided answering questions, got more irritated, and started accusing Hubby to deflect the conversation. Hubby didn't let it go. This was a long time coming. Bear got even more irritated, and then finally let a few things slip. He admitted to hiding to avoid being with family.

He admitted that he never tells anyone about his personal issues because he can "handle it" himself. He informed us he almost never admitted to having health issues (like hemorrhoids and not sleeping at night) - because doctors said nothing could be done, doctors didn't know what was wrong, doctors would just throw meds at it, he wished doctors didn't even exist, he already told us but we couldn't do anything about it anyway...

Bear told us once, a long time ago that sleeping meds don't work for long with him. We are therefore supposed to "know" that his sleeping meds don't work, even though he's never mentioned it to us. I mentioned to the psychiatrist at the last visit that I thought Bear was having difficulty sleeping, but Bear denied it. He also doesn't bother to tell us that he is only sleeping for 5 hours a night because, his Grandpa only sleeps for 5 hours so Bear has decided this is his "normal." And there is nothing we could do about it anyway... We informed Bear it is NOT normal for a teenage boy to only sleep 5 hours a night. He is not an ill old man. While we agree that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, he obviously NEEDS more!

For over a year, Bear hasn't told us he needs treatment for his hemorrhoids, because treatments "didn't work" when he tried it for 2 whole weeks while in residential treatment. Hubby told him that hemorrhoids most certainly can be treated, with surgery if necessary, but are caused by stress and anxiety- which Bear has a lot of, and doesn't deal with at all.

Bear admitted that he doesn't talk about his personal issues with anyone. He's "dealing with it" all by himself. He feels that unless someone went through exactly what he's been through then they can't help him. Therefore his therapist and Hubby and I are just irritating him because we always ask him questions. *sigh* Of course we ask him questions because he doesn't volunteer information! We also warned him, again, that he needs to stop talking to his friends about his issues. They are NOT equipped to handle them. Hubby pointed out that Bear's hemorrhoids are indicating that Bear is NOT "dealing with it."

While off on a tangent, Bear told Hubby that he's mad because Hubby doesn't spend enough time with Bear. For example, Bear has done all the book work to get his scuba certification (Hubby is a scuba instructor), but Hubby has never taken him for the pool work required to actually get certified. Hubby said this has been bothering him for a long time, but he hasn't wanted to certify Bear. Partly because Hubby sees this as his alone time (although he hasn't done any recreational diving in a year), but mostly because he can't trust Bear to tell him if Bear is hurt or something is wrong. This may have gotten through to Bear.

To get Bear to open up at all required a lot of persistence on Hubby's part. It's like poking a bear (pun intended - and one reason why I chose "Bear" for his screen name). Bear did a lot of growling and some yelling although no physical violence. During this ONE and a HALF hour conversation!, I hung around nearby (cleaning), but let Hubby handle the discussion. Partly to support Hubby, partly to hear Bear's responses so I wouldn't have to rely on Hubby to remember everything to tell me later.

At one point I went upstairs to check on the other kids. They were in the playroom watching Bob play PS2. This weekend I had finally told Kitty that she was no longer allowed to play with her Bratz dolls with Bob. I informed her that the dolls had "issues" and it was not fair or healthy for Bob to have to attend Kitty's "play therapy." Kitty argued a little that her dolls' issues with things like fire starting (*EEK!*) were not her own issues, but I was adamant. I told her I would be happy to play dolls with her. She chose instead to give all her dolls to Bob since Kitty was "outgrowing" them anyway. Bob was supposed to move all the dolls to her room. I had also informed the girls that all dolls with missing body parts that for some reason they were storing in an old fish tank had to be trashed. Also all the dolls they had colored with markers (alien dolls?) needed to go in the trash too.

I suggested the kids clean the playroom since they had nothing better to do, but that went over like a lead balloon as you can well imagine. The kids could of course hear the "conversation" going on downstairs. Kitty was a little distraught. She mentioned that Bear was working his way back up to residential treatment. I briefly reassured her that it was nothing like that. He is allowed to get upset (first time in the almost 1 1/2 year since he's been home from RT). I doubt she believed me though.

Finally Hubby and Bear wound down and we could leave, but it was now time for lunch! So much for getting everyone to Grandma's by 9am. *sigh*

Star Chart

Kitty's behavior has been worsening, and now that Grandma has pneumonia (*eek!*) she is of course even less able to keep up with my girl. Spring Break loomed ahead as pure torture for all.

I decided to try something new and less threatening with Kitty, in a way that might not make all the other children hate her or her feel she won. I decided to take a step back with her and try a star chart. I found a great site with free printable, customizable charts that was easy to use and worked perfectly -

If she is operating well on the star chart then we will completely remove the FAIR Club as an option for her (threat of the FAIR Club, as well as actually being put in it) are HUGE triggers for her.

She will have almost no chores. She will only wash dishes (big trigger) on the weekend so that Hubby and I can supervise and Grandma is left out of it. We also decided that she and Ponito could do the dishes together as she seems to work better with company. She will no longer clean anything but her own room. She will still have to put her laundry away, but she will not have to wash it (just bring it downstairs).

So her chart has 3 categories.
1. Respectful Attitude
2. Chores completed with only one reminder (we'll work up to being completed well)
3. Talk to parents about feelings (this includes the 5 minute conversations with Dad she's supposed to be doing every night).

She thinks star charts are babyish, but likes the fewer chores. The reduction in allowance irritated her, but I combined it with telling her that I was not going to make her finish paying me back for some money she'd borrowed.

Spring Break means that the kids have no school all week, but Hubby and I still need to work. My mom's pneumonia means that Poppy (her husband) is really watching the kids (and her). We've been dropping the kids off at her house every morning so chores have to be done before everyone leaves. This led to an explosion yesterday for once it involved BEAR!

Lost internet

My internet keeps going in and out so I've been unable to keep up. I've been reading blogs, but not finding time to post. How do you guys do it? Google reader is great, but you have to click on the blog to post a comment, and I don't always do that.

Next post will be about our fabulous Spring Break experiences! Enjoy the drama!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

15 years!

Yesterday was our 15 year wedding anniversary! My wonderful Hubby put up with my attachment disordered tuckus, and has hung on to me for 15 years. Finally convincing me that not all men leave (it only took him 4 years - 2 of which were after we were married).
Now all we have to do is convince Kitty and Bear.

We had lunch together (yes, as usual) to celebrate. We had Italian. (Ok, it was Mr. Gatti's buffet, but that's Italian, right?!).
For dinner I cooked a new chicken dish, that only 2 of the kids hated and refused to eat (more for Hubby!). We had chocolate cake for dessert! (and only 1 child got up in the middle of the night and ate half of it).
No melt downs (of course we didn't make anyone do chores) and hopefully Grandma's fever is better today so she can watch the kids this weekend).

How to discipline your difficult child -writing assignments

So you want to find logical consequences and for your child to learn not to do this behavior again. Writing assignments even help them academically, but who can think up this stuff?! What makes it a good assignment that they'll learn from?

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
Patience, empathy and support
access to the internet
a good bookstore (I like Half-price books)
Patience and creativity

Tips & Warnings

Be creative and ask your friends or research on the internet. I love to pick up books at the bookstore or articles or stories on the internet. That way they are ready if I need them. Remember they can do an assignment more than once. Books can be much lower reading levels (I like Berenstein Bears).

Assignments don't have to be given the day they are put in the FAIR Club You can take your time and think about it. You can even e-mail/comment me for advice, articles, forms, or info on books!

Consequences should ALWAYS be given with a calm, loving, empathetic tone of voice and attitude. You want your child to learn from their mistakes.

Restitution is a concept you should introduce fairly early on. Be prepared to explain what it means!

I admit now that we've had the FAIR Club for almost 2 years I am much lazier about getting assignments to the kids right away and enforcing the earlier bedtime is hard for us because we eat so late. I also tend to have them do more book report type assignments then writing assignments.

Because Kitty has such a severe reaction to the FAIR Club we don't use it very often with her.

Results of the FAIR CLUB:
Some of these assignments worked better than others. Sometimes the
assignment wasn't so great, but it was a good conversation starter. I
was/am frequently amazed that the children actually complied - possibly
because of the delay in the consequences. I wasn't standing there yelling at them in the heat of the moment when they were in "fight, flight or freeze" mode - when nothing I said was going to get through to them or get them to do what I wanted. It also gave me a chance to calm down and think of a creative logical consequence instead of just yelling, spanking, grounding or timeouts. Sometimes it was a good creative outlet for me!

I have also found that the need for the FAIR Club has really tapered off, especially with the bio kids, and it has become more of a warning to behave then a required discipline method.
Because of their emotional age, the adopted kids usually did better with consistent Structure and Caring Support rather than the FAIR Club. 

Writing Assignments

There are a few big things you need to remember when creating a writing assignment.

1. Children learn best from natural consequences, but if you can't use those (especially if it might cause death or dismemberment!), logical consequences work well.

If a child steals something a natural consequence might be that they get caught by the police and put in jail. Most of the time this doesn't happen though.

A logical consequence might be making them return (or pay for) the item - in our house you have to pay back 2 times the worth of the item, and the child must offer restitution to all involved - the person the item was stolen from of course, but also the parents who had to take time to deal with the issue.

2. The purpose of a writing assignment is not to punish the child, but to help the child make better choices and learn from his/her mistakes.

3. Be sure that you keep in mind the child's age, abilities and learning style in mind. A 3 page research report citing 10 articles is probably not appropriate for an 8 year old or even a 17 year old with severe learning disabilities, but the assignment should take them more than 10 minutes to complete. Expect complete sentences, good spelling and good handwriting. Re-writing it can help drive the message home!

4. Repetition is great, but mix it up by trying different approaches. Don't use the same consequence every time or they might start weighing whether doing the crime is worth the time. I also step it up a notch if this is a repeat offense or the child has been particularly unmanageable lately.

5. Not every assignment goes like you'd expect it too. Sometimes it was easier than you thought - sometimes it might be impossible. I once gave my children a group assignment - the majority were unable to handle it and it didn't work at all. One of the children was assigned to write a short story and she copied the example almost word for word. Can you say plagiarism?

6. Be ready to sit with your child and help them stay calm and think it through to the next step. Sometimes you might end up modifying the assignment if you realize it's too difficult. Often you can help them to greater insight. For one learning disabled child I read the assignment and will occasionally let her dictate the writing part to me if she appears to be too frustrated to do it on her own.


The following are some examples of assignments I gave early on when we first started the FAIR Club:

Bear - was a 13/14 yr. old boy (now 15 and rarely in the FAIR Club), adopted from foster care. Diagnosed with RAD, PTSD, bipolar, cerebral dysrhythmia, ADD, and behind in school. This was when he was still aggressive and intimidating all the time - before he went to residential treatment.

Kitty - at the time of these examples, was 11/12 yr. old girl (now 13). Adopted from foster care. Diagnosed with RAD, Complex PTSD, bipolar, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), ADHD, and learning disabilities.

Bob was 10/11 yr. old girl (now 12). "Spirited" and very bright, usually responsible, was oldest child until new siblings moved in 11/06. Excellent reader and very stubborn, usually gets harsher consequences because of her attitude and my higher expectations. She can really push my buttons!

Ponito was a 7 yr old boy (now 10). Acts up mostly when tired, hungry or overwhelmed, is also very bright and capable of working at much higher levels then the average kid his age.

Bob and Bear (no idea what they did):

1. What specifically did you do that led up to being grounded (at least 10 things).

2. What could/should you have done differently.

3. What would happen if we let you and everyone act this way. At least 2 pages.

Ponito (repeatedly not doing his homework)

1 page on why homework is important and what you learn from it.

What will/ could happen to you if you don’t do your homework.

Kitty (meltdown that was building for quite a while, but triggered by not being allowed to wear the shoes she wanted and being unable to find socks).

What were you thinking and feeling that led you to get upset this morning (list 8 things – For example, I was feeling jealous that Bob got new shoes and I didn’t. I was frustrated that I couldn't find any shoes that I wanted to wear).

How did you know you were getting upset? How could we, your parents, have helped you calm down (other than letting you wear flip flops or shoes without socks). How could you have helped yourself calm down?

List 3 ways you handled this situation well (or better than you have in the past).

List 3 things that we, your parents, did that helped you deal with this situation. This should be at least 1 -2 pages.

Bob and Kitty (the girls were found playing with Bratz dolls that had been confiscated and put in my closet. One of them took them out, but neither admitted to it).

Bob and Kitty- Write down your version of what happened (do NOT work on this with your sister). Because you lied, did something you knew was wrong, and gave us attitude (and maybe stole from us) we no longer feel we can trust you.

List 5 things you can do to rebuild trust with us. How would you feel if we lied, stole, and gave YOU attitude? Why? Why do you think we don’t do this to you?

Write down at least 5 reasons you think we may not like Bratz dolls.

This should take at least 3 pages.

Kitty only- Explain why what you said are threats.

For Bob only–Why should I believe that your attitude is going to improve?

Bear (no idea what he did)

Read pages 1-97 in the book “How to Take the Grrr Out of Anger.” (It’s not that long and has lots of pictures!). Write down 8 things that you found interesting, thought were important, or meant something to you. On a piece of typing paper, redesign the pledge on page 98 to be specifically for you.

Read pages 99-105. Make a list of how we, your parents, can help you. You can point out things you would like us to continue to do or would like us to change or try.

Ponito (got upset about not getting his way and started kicking things. Refused to get in the car when we needed to go to the store)

What were you thinking and feeling that led you to get upset and refuse to get in the car (list 8 things – For example, I was feeling mad that my sisters were the ones to tell me I was in the FAIR Club. I was feeling sad that Cason wouldn’t be able to come over.)

List 10 things that you or I, your mom, could do to help you feel better (other than not making you be in the FAIR Club and have an assigned seat).

Read Jonah and the Giant Fish and answer the 3 questions at the back. Flip the book over and read Jason Learns to Obey and answer the 3 questions.

List 8 things that you have been upset/mad/sad about that you want to talk to Mom or Dad about. Set up a time to talk to Mom and/or Dad about them.

Bob (no idea what she did, but was a good excuse to get her to read this great book to Kitty)Politely arrange a time to sit down with your sister and read aloud pages 1-97 in the book “How to Take the Grrr Out of Anger.” (It’s not that long and has lots of pictures!). Write 10 things that you found interesting, thought was a good idea, or meant something to you (Your sister may help you). By yourself, redesign the pledge on page 98 to be specifically for you. Make it look nice enough to frame.

Read pages 99-105. Make a list of how we, your parents, can help you. You can point out things you would like us to continue to do or would like us to change or try.

List at least 10 things that you have been upset/ mad/ sad about that you want to talk to Mom and/or Dad about. Set up a time to talk to Mom and/or Dad about your lists

Kitty (leaving a big mess - repeatedly- and not noticing them)

Extra Chore: You will pick up your room EVERY night and make sure your dirty clothes for the day and bath towel are in a laundry basket. Any personal hygiene items must be thrown away (pull-ups especially). If you make a mess – clean it up!

Writing Assignment: _ Look up oblivious in the dictionary and write all the definitions down on a piece of paper. List 7 things people often have to ask you to do (for example, clean up a spill or put your dirty clothes in the laundry) and what you will do to help you remember to do these things.

Bear (Lying and breaching trust)

Extra Chore: You will find a different person every night to help in some way. Once your writing assignment is complete you need to use the last question to start trying to rebuild trust.

Writing Assignment: _ Read the articles about Trust and Lies. Answer all the questions that follow.

Bear (running away and not feeling part of the family)

Extra Chore: Find one chore that you can do that helps you feel more like part of the family. Take 5 minutes to tell one of your parents about one of your feelings –every day.

Writing Assignment: Read the article titled Seasons. Which season are you in right now. Write a paragraph for each season on what your life will be, or is, like. Unlike a tree, sometimes nature needs help to get you to the next season. Write a paragraph on what you think might help you to get to the next season.

Bob (Attitude and telling Kitty that she wishes Kitty weren’t here).

Writing Assignment: Read all 3 fairy tales from Forever Child series. Write and illustrate your own fairy tale with you as the main character.

Kitty (For breaking rules like eating after hours and waiting till too late to tell me important things)

Writing Assignment: Using eye contact and some form of physical touch (hand holding, knees touching…) talk to a parent about 6 important things each day. Write down each of these 6 things and the parent’s response. The important things must be different each day.

Bob (For screaming and complaining about having to help C clean her room and not getting any attention)

Writing Assignment: 11 things we can do to give Bobattention; 11 appropriate ways for Bob to let Mom and Dad know that she needs attention; 11 things Bob will do to make Restitution (look up definition of restitution in the dictionary).

Group assignment:

Bob, Ponito and Kitty (Kitty for kicking the wall and threatening to jump out the window, calling parents names and having to be restrained). (Bob for negative attitude). (Ponito for kicking things when angry and bickering with sisters)

Extra Chore: Everyone may fill one Rubbermaid tub with toys. Everything else must be put in the garage to be given to charity. Please put unwanted American Dolls and their accessories in a separate bag. Once the playroom is empty, put all the toys you kept neatly away. If they are not put away they will be GONE.

Team Writing Assignment: RULES: Do a good job on this or each of you will have to write your own. Respect your siblings’ needs and abilities. It is NOT your job to tell your siblings what to do. Take a time out if you need it, but remember not to take advantage of the others.

1. List at least 3 reasons (each) that you were (or should have been) put in the FAIR Club on a piece of paper. This is a total of at least 9!

2. Write and illustrate a story using yourself and your siblings as main characters in which the characters work together to become better people. Do a good job or you will each have to write your own.

a. In the beginning show the characters doing things they are not supposed to be doing (use your behaviors!).

b. In the middle tell what the consequences of these actions are and how the characters come to understand that these were not good choices. (You may NOT use an authority figure like a Mommy or a principal who comes in to discipline them. They must figure this out in another way – maybe by seeing how they actions hurt someone else.).

c. At the end, tell how the characters give restitution to the people that they hurt – including themselves.

3. On a separate piece of paper write

a. What you learned from this assignment. (There should be at least one thing learned from each of you.)

b. How did you get along? Did you argue?

c. What was difficult about working together? Did you have trouble sharing, taking turns, did everyone participate, did someone work harder or less than the others? How did that make you feel?

d. How did you resolve your problems?

FYI this assignment did NOT work well and all ended up having to do something on
their own. (See following for new assignments)


Draw a picture for the story

Bob (For continuing negative attitude)

Writing Assignment : Read the Berenstein Bears Get in a Fight. Finish the team writing assignment on your own.

Ponito (For kicking things when angry)

Writing Assignment: Read the 2 books I Was So Mad and Handling Your Disagreements. Write a short paragraph about a time you got in a disagreement.

Read p. 118 of the Handling book. Which steps did you do or not do? For each step write what you did and whether or not it was the right thing to do. If it wasn’t, write how you should have handled it.

Make a list of 8 things you can do when you’re mad instead of hitting, kicking, crying or pouting.

Kitty (For being rude and telling Grandma she wouldn’t clean her room, leaving a big mess all over the house after being told to pick up her stuff, and for having a meltdown when told she needed to deal with the consequences of Grandma having picked up all her shoes).

Extra Chore: You will clean the refrigerator inside and out (don’t forget under the drawers). ( Also had to :Finish cleaning room and assigned another room in the house to keep clean and be responsible for on a weekly basis.)

Writing Assignment: Read the article about restitution. Leaving room to add to each answer, write 6 things you have done recently that you should make restitution for. For each of these things write who you need to make restitution to. Ask that person in what way you can provide restitution (You can offer suggestions from the list in the article). Write down what you have decided to do – do it!

Kitty (For eating breadsticks for breakfast after Dad told her not to eat pizza).

Writing Assignment: Read “How to Behave and Why” answer any questions. Then answer the following questions:

1. Why are you in the FAIR Club?

2. What did you learn from this book? (List at least 4 things)

3. Why do you think Dad told you not to eat pizza for Breakfast?

4. How should you have handled it?

5. Why was what you did not the right thing to do?

Ponito (For stealing some lozenges off my desk, lying about it, and hiding them in his lunch box with a LOT of cereal bars he was not supposed to have either).

Writing Assignment: Read the Book “Don’t tell Whoppers on Friday.” Answer the following questions:

1. Why are you in the FAIR Club?

2. What did you learn from this book? (List at least 6 things)

3. Why do Mom and Dad not want you to take cereal bars and medicine strips? (List 6 reasons)

4. This is not the first time you’ve stolen or lied. What are you going to do to stop yourself from doing this again?

5. Mom took your candy and toy bag from you. How is this like what you did? How did it make you feel? Should Mom give your bag back? Why or why not?

6. Why is it important not to lie or steal?7. What are you going to do for restitution? (Ask the people you hurt or inconvenienced).

Bob (for lying about not feeding the dogs every night for 2-8 weeks so she could play Bratz with Kitty)

Extra chores: Feed the dogs both times (morning and night) or make sure someone else does. Earn extra money by doing extra chores and not receiving an allowance to help pay vet bills.

(Was supervised very well when feeding dogs. Also lost all Bratz dolls which she could not begin to earn back for one month, and then could be earned back at $5/doll.)

Writing assignment: Write one page on lying. Read and complete the Thinking Errors worksheet.

Kitty (for disobedience, not doing chores, making big messes, and constantly saying “I forgot” when she breaks a rule).

Extra chore: Help clean the kitchen counters.
Writing Assignment: Read the new version of the family rules. “I forgot” is not a good excuse. List 5 rules you have broken in the last week (complete sentences). For each one write how you plan to make restitution.

Bear (for taking a 45 minute shower instead of 15 and it and yelling when told was going in FAIR Club – Also for not talking about what was really bothering him)
Extra Chore: Take at least 5 minutes to tell one of your parents about one of your feelings –every day.
Writing Assignment: Read Part I (to page 28) of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Write down your answers to the questions on p. 28. Talk about your answers with either or both parents.

Bear (for having a girl in the bathroom with him with the door shut and lying about it).
Extra Chore: Sweep, mop and scrub clean the kitchen, dining room, utility room, and pantry floors. Put all things you find away neatly and where they belong – this is now a part of your regular chores.
Writing Assignment:
1. Read Part II (to page 72) of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Write down your answers to the questions. If it’s something for you to think about or do in the future, write at least 3 sentences about how you think this will go. Talk about your answers with either or both parents.
2. Make a list of your friends and girls you are currently interested in dating, include (girl in the bathroom). Write at least 5 pros and cons about each friendship. Are these the kind of people you want to hang around and have an influence on your life?
3. You seriously damaged your relationship with Dad. Write at least one page about how your choices damaged this relationship and what you can do to fix it. Talk about this with Dad.

Bear (for e-mailing from school and giving our address to a person he just “met” on the internet)
1. Watch
2. Read the articles about Teen internet safety. Read the three e-mails copied off of YOUR e-mail. List at least 5 safety rules that were broken. Read and sign the Family Safety Contract.
3. Read Habit # 3 (p.73-103) from the 7 habits of Highly Effective Teens. Answer the questions on page 104 (NOT the ones in the middle – you’ve already answered those).

Kitty (for “borrowing” my hair brush and not returning it for several weeks – despite many reminders. Has been “forgetting” things a lot lately. She had a major meltdown when told she was in the FAIR club).
Journal entry about her meltdown and where and how she feels about it.

Bear (for stealing videos out of my room.)
1. Read Habit #4 (p.104-128) from the 7 habits of Highly Effective Teens. On a full size piece of paper, draw your Comfort Zone and Courage Zone (see page 117). Fill it in with things you need courage to do (things you’re afraid of, things that are difficult, adventures… ) and things that make up your Comfort zone (things you enjoy doing, things that make you feel safe, things you do to relax).
2. Answer the questions on page 128
3. You have seriously damaged our trust. Write at least one/half page about how your choices did this damage and what you can do to fix it. Add this to your journal of stuff to talk about in therapy.

Kitty (For cooking food without supervision, wasting food, leaving a mess, eating food being saved for another meal for breakfast, refusing to stay with me in the grocery store, for refusing to comply with adult directions)
Bear ( For taking a special treat and eating most of it, and leaving it in his room, were also having trouble with him speaking in an intimidating way to siblings).
FAIR Exam – Kitty also did the Vengeance section. Bear also did the How Others See You section.

Bob (for stealing my romance novels and reading them, for stealing her sister’s CDs, for watching TV shows and movies that she knows are not approved).
Extra Chore: After doing your writing assignment, dust ALL bookshelves in the house and straighten the books, videos and toys. Remove anything you know should not be approved.
Writing Assignment: Read ALL of the research on media -music, videos, games, books, TV. Write an article as if for the (Private School) Newsletter, about why it is important for parents to make sure kids are reading and listening to positive, appropriate media. Make sure you include how all media effects kids and why. On a separate page, write one page about how you think what you’ve been watching, listening, reading and doing, is effecting you. Is it helping you grow up to be RRHAFTBA or a better person? Why do you think Mom and Dad want you to go to (Private School) and care what media you listen to?

Kitty (For telling Grandma NO about cleaning her room, for yelling at Ponito when he didn’t want her to play Playstation, and then calling Mom at work and cussing at her when Mom said she needed to listen to Grandma).
Extra Chore: Help clean Mom’s work building (it's a small building -2 half baths, a couple of sinks, some dusting and vacuuming).
Writing Assignment: Read the book, “Handling your Disagreement,” and reread Bob's article. Write a one page paper about why you acted the way you did with Mom, Grandma and Ponito. How did you feel inside while you were arguing? How you should have handled it differently? Write a letter of apology to Grandma, Mom and Ponito. Should you write one to anyone else?

Ponito (for going to a friend's house without telling anyone. While in the FAIR Club - for threatening to kill himself, cussing and fighting with Mom in a store so badly that he had to be restrained!).
Extra Chore: Because you had a potty mouth, you will scoop poop in the backyard and bury it in a hole in the spot where you want the dogs to poop. Use plastic bags on your hands to keep them clean.
Writing Assignment: Read the book How to Take the Grrr out of Anger. (It’s not that long and has lots of pictures!). Write why you think you acted the way you did. Then write 3 things you could have done to help tame your anger. Redesign the pledge on page 98 to be specifically for you. Make it look nice enough to frame. List at least 10 things that you have been upset/ mad/ sad about that you want to talk to Mom and/or Dad about. Set up a time to talk to Mom and/or Dad about your lists.

Bob for being defiant, delaying and refusing to leave for a shopping trip and acting up during the trip – repeatedly, all weekend.
Extra Chore: You will organize the garage. Stack things neatly. Put unwanted things in separate area. Put away everything else where it goes. You may ask for help. Put your thanks in writing as well.
Writing Assignment: Read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Answer ALL the questions in a spiral notebook. If the question is a doing thing instead of an answer thing, write HOW you will do it. You are a role model to your siblings, keep that in mind when writing apologies and when offering restitution. How can you make it right?!

Results of the FAIR CLUB:

Some of these assignments worked better than others. Sometimes the
assignment wasn't so great, but it was a good conversation starter. I
was/am frequently amazed that the children actually complied - possibly
because of the delay in the consequences. I wasn't standing there yelling at them in the heat of the moment when they were in "fight, flight or freeze" mode - when nothing I said was going to get through to them or get them to do what I wanted. It also gave me a chance to calm down and think of a creative logical consequence instead of just yelling, spanking, grounding or timeouts. Sometimes it was a good creative outlet for me!

I have also found that the need for the FAIR Club has really tapered off, and it has become more of a warning to behave then a required discipline method.

How to discipline your difficult child - FAIR Club letter

FAIR Club letter sample:

Dear ____________,

Welcome to the FAIR Club! The FAIR Club is designed to give you boundaries and additional support while you practice and gain (or regain) the ability to be Respectful, Responsible, Honest, and Fun To Be Around (RRHAFTBA).

First, we, your parents, want to apologize to you for not making you feel safe enough to be part of this loving, healthy family. We are making a commitment to you to help you become RRHAFTBA.

Assigned Seat - As you know this means you will have an assigned seat in the van (_behind the driver in the middle row_), an assigned seat in any other vehicle (behind the driver seat ), an assigned seat at the dining room table (1 spaces to the left of the head of the table_), and an assigned seat in the family room (_blue couch next to the navy recliner_). This helps decrease the number of decisions that you have to make so you can focus on the important ones.

Bed Time - You will also be in your room by 8:00pm and in bed with your eyes closed and the lights out by 8:15pm. This is to help you get the rest you need (learning to be RRHAFTBA is hard work!). Getting out of bed to get a snack, get a drink of water, or go to the bathroom shows me you still need more time to learn to be RRAFTBA. Do these things BEFORE room time!

Electronics - No TV (unless the show is approved by a parent – at the time). No music (you may listen to your MP3 (which is stocked only with Christian music), IF you have shown you can handle it), and no video game time while in the FAIR club so you can concentrate/focus on learning to be RRHAFTBA! Phone time will be limited and may be removed completely.

Family Time - You will need to hang around the family a LOT so we can show you by example how to be RRHAFTBA. You will probably be expected to do extra chores and help cook so you can practice being RRHAFTBA. You will need to make lots of eye contact and use a pleasant tone of voice when speaking with others.

If you need any help – ASK! That’s what we are here for.

If you no longer wish to be part of the FAIR Club, you must SHOW us that you are ready to rejoin us a full member of this loving, healthy family by:

1. Being RRHAFTBA! And following the FAIR club and family rules without complaint, whining or argument.
2. Complete your writing assignment (listed at the bottom of this page). Use neat handwriting, complete sentences and good spelling and grammar. You can ask a parent for help or use a dictionary.
3. Sincerely apologize to all parties involved (including both parents).
4. Sincerely offer restitution (how can you make it right?) to all parties involved.

(This child was disrespectful to Mom so had to do one of her chores. We were just introducing the concept of restitution to her).
Extra Chore: You will clean the refrigerator inside and out (don’t forget under the drawers).

Writing Assignment: _ Read the article about restitution. Leaving room to add to each answer, write 6 things you have done recently that you should make restitution for. For each of these things write who you need to make restitution to. Ask that person in what way you can provide restitution (You can offer suggestions from the list in the article). Write down what you have decided to do – do it!

Mom and Dad

Tips & Warnings:

Reminder: when assigning writing assignments remember your goal is to help the child make better choices and learn from his/her mistakes. Try to keep consequences logical when natural consequences are not possible. Make sure that consequences are reasonable and age appropriate. Repeating consequences helps them learn.

The great thing about the FAIR Club is you are in it until you SHOW you are ready to get out. This means the child is not "grounded" for a week, and can act horrible the whole time. Because the child needs family time, this also means the family is not grounded either! You can still do some family activities with the child.

It also means you do not have to FORCE the child to do the writing assignment or extra chores- they'll do it when they are tired of being in the FAIR Club!

See my next post on writing assignments for some ideas of consequences.

STAY CALM! If you are emotionally upset that is NOT the time to be deciding on extra chores or writing assignments. Children have to be in the FAIR Club AT LEAST overnight. Give yourself a time out until you are ready to deal with this calmly, lovingly and logically. They can wait until tomorrow to find out what their consequences will be. Gives them a chance to worry!
I recommend the Love and Logic books by Fay and Cline to help you with this.

Every child reacts differently to the FAIR Club. I have some that dissolve into tears and beg to get out (stick by your decision or they will manipulate you more!) and others who are more stoic. Do treat them empathetically - consequences are hard to deal with - even when it was their choices that got them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to discipline your difficult child -FAIR Club

By Marythemom

I'm known to my children as the "meanest mom in the world." That's because I am FAIR and I share the FAIR Club with anyone who asks! You can't spank or yell at foster children and teenagers aren't easy to handle - even without special needs. The FAIR Club is a compilation of everything I've ever learned about parenting.  It is ever changing to account for the fact that our children and their needs are ever growing and developing.  The premise is that life is not fair, nor do we want it to be.

Here's how we discipline at our house:

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
Love, empathy and understanding
Family rules (see previous post)
Children books on behavior management (see Tips)

Life is not fair, nor do we want it to be 

FAIR Club– In our family, you have the right to join the “FAIR” Club. Anytime you invoke the word “fair” or imply that you expect life to be fair, I will assume you want to join the club. I always expect you to be Respectful, Responsible, Honest, have a positive Attitude and be Fun To Be Around ( Loving and Learning (RRHAFTBALL - pronounced "Raft ball")  and in return you will enjoy the privileges and responsibilities that go with being part of this loving family. We do NOT try to make everything equal for everyone. We respect that each of our children has a different personality, is a different age (chronologically and developmentally), and has different wants, needs and abilities. Unlike the FAIR club, being part of our family means we sometimes cut you some slack and sometimes we’re here to help you live up to being more than average or equal.

Every Family member must be Respectful, Responsible, Honest , have a positive Attitude and be Fun To Be Around ( Loving and Learning (RRHAFTBALL - pronounced "Raft ball")  . You follow this rule whether you want to or not. Whether it’s easy or not.

Not only will you respect your mom/dad, but you will respect my spouse. If you are disrespectful to a parent, you will be disciplined twice! Once for being disrespectful to Mom or Dad and once for being disrespectful to my wife/husband.

Remember YOU ARE NOT THE PARENT! This is a good thing! It means that while you should be aware of your family’s behavior and issues and try to help them if you can, you are not responsible for correcting them or disciplining them. THIS IS NOT YOUR JOB! It is our job as parents to keep everyone safe and help them be all that they can be. YOU are however, responsible for your own choices and behaviors, and being RRHAFTBALL.

Members of the FAIR club have assigned seats (at the dining room table, in the car, in the family room). They are expected to always have the family attitude (RRHAFTBALL) – anything less would not be “fair” to them or everyone else.

Attitude is contagious – do you want others to catch yours? YOU are responsible for your choices. What are you going to do about it? There are hard things to do in life. That's ok, you CAN do hard things. Just do YOUR Best to live your life in a RRHAFTBALL manner. That's all anyone can ask of you.

You don't have to like any particular person. You do however have to be courteous with everyone, even those you don't like. Learning this trait will help you to be RRHAFTBALL.

Whining might get you a $5 charge for Whhhiiinnniinngg! AND mom could sing a whining song, loudly and off key!   ... or Mom might think of something WORSE!

Last one to do something usually gets caught. That means if you “do unto others as they did unto you,” YOU will probably be the one to get caught and experience consequences.

If someone has a bad attitude toward you or uses bad behavior, try to help them or get an adult to help. Revenge just gets YOU in trouble.

Members of the FAIR club who feel something is not FAIR may put this in writing and submit it to the Investigation Committee (Mom and Dad) where it will be ruled on. Do not expect us to investigate an allegation or make a ruling without it being in writing and us having a chance for the committee to meet. You do not have to be in the FAIR club to use this committee.

Teachers are your "Boss" at school. You wouldn't disrespect a boss without expecting to get fired. Don't disrespect teachers for the same reason. 99% of the time I will trust what a teacher tells me is the true story. I've never had a teacher lie to me. (PITY the teacher that ever does) If I know that what you're telling me is untrue, then it's a lie, and the conversation is over. If you are leaving something important out on purpose it is STILL a lie.

Your parents talk to people at your school, parents of your friends, your friends, neighbors and people you don’t know that we know. We know all and see all. Do not lie and sneak around. You WILL get caught.

Whenever you lie to us that means that you have chosen to have a consequence. Typically, this means we assume you must have also been lying when you told us you wanted to attend ______________ (whatever fun activity you’ve requested to attend recently).

A creative writing assignment might be the consequence for lying, as at least then, it can be labeled fiction -and look how much money J.K. Rowling has made!

For every “right” /privilege you have, you have at least one, and usually more, responsibilities (just like in our country).If you want something that's not a required part of life, then you better plan on putting forth some effort for it. If you want "Freedom and Independence" then you must first show "Respect and Responsibility."

If you do a good job, you get praised for the good job. If you do a bad job, you get a chance to repeat the job until it's a good job. Learning how to do a job A+, "fast and snappy" instead of "slow and crappy" will result in you living your life in an A+ manner.

Even Jell-O has rules. They're called directions, or a recipe. If you don't follow the recipe for Jell-o, it turns out weak, tasteless, and unsatisfactory. If you don't follow life’s rules, your life will turn out weak, tasteless, and unsatisfactory.

If you’re doing something I think is wrong, I will assume you don’t know any better. Sometime soon I will show you how to do this correctly and we will “practice” it many times (Warning: this is at MY convenience and may happen to be when you had other plans).For every choice you make in life, you receive either a benefit or a consequence. Make a good choice, you'll probably get a benefit. Bad choices usually result in consequences. Sometimes, good choices result in consequences as well. Put on your "Big Girl Panties" or your "Big Boy Boxers" and deal with it. AKA “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!”

If you're doing something that makes you think you should look around to see who's watching -- don't do it. Someone is ALWAYS watching. That inclination to look around is your conscience telling you not to do what you know is wrong.

The FAIR Club -

If a child is not being RRHAFTBALL or is complaining that life is not fair, then they go in the FAIR Club. The FAIR Club is designed to provide boundaries and additional support while the child practices and gains (or regains) the ability to be RRHAFTBALL. This involves removing a lot of the distractions and drains of life (like electronics, phone, friends, even where to sit) and adds ways of dealing with stress (earlier bedtime, spending time with parents who can role model, only going places as a family).

To demonstrate they are ready to get out of the FAIR Club the child must be RRHAFTBALL and complete their writing assignment and extra chore(s). Assignments and consequences are based on the child’s developmental age, Logical Consequences and restitution. There is a minimum of 24 hours that a child can be in the FAIR Club, but no maximum. If a child refuses to do the chores/assignments or be RRHAFTBALL that is their choice. This takes a LOT of pressure off the parent. Unlike other techniques, you don’t have to nag the child to do the assignment or let a child who is being horrid off grounding just because their time is up. They will figure out pretty quickly that “fair” is not fun!

The FAIR Club today - 

One of the things I liked about using the FAIR Club with my 4 VERY different children was it's flexibility.  I could consequence a neurotypical, normally compliant child; a neurotypical, intelligent, stubborn, repeat offender; a child who was emotionally much younger than her chronological age who couldn't handle verbal reprimands and didn't always have full control of her behaviors; and an emotionally disturbed, defiant, unattached teen... with all feeling that everyone got "punished" and weren't "getting away with" misbehavior.

While I think all 4 children greatly benefited from the lessons learned in the FAIR Club, I don't remember the last time I had to put my 2 younger biochildren (now 13 and 16 years old) in the FAIR Club.  The reality was though that we quickly learned that the older adopted children NEED the structure and support of ALWAYS being in the FAIR Club to feel safe and loved - not the writing assignments or extra chores, but the assigned seats, constant supervision, and even earlier bedtimes.  I found that every time I "lightened up" because they were doing well, these two would begin increasingly acting up until the limits and restrictions were reinstated.

How to discipline your difficult child -Family rules

By Marythemom,

Family rules. If you don't have any rules you get chaos. Too many rules and you might get an uprising -but how many is too many? How do you include everything you want to include so your child grows up to be a happy, healthy, law-abiding, good citizen? And most importantly - once you have rules how do you get them to obey?

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
Paper and a pencil
Patience and love
Guinea pigs - I mean children
Did I mention patience?


The general rule of thumb is that you should have no more than 5-6 family rules. This is easier for the children to remember and you to enforce. The problem is kids are so inventive. They do things it never even occurred to you to write a rule about!

For example, my mom never told me not to cover my feet with Crisco and go "ice" skating in the kitchen.

She never told me not to take all the labels off the packing boxes and use them to decorate my tricycle (that military move had to be delayed 24 hours while every single box was opened, unpacked, re-inventoried, and repacked).

You may have told your child to never (again) stick a bean up his nose, but did you tell him not to stick a pebble up his sister's nose?

I told my daughter not to write on the walls with crayon, but technically I did not tell her not to write her brother's name on the couch in permanent marker (as he was only 18 months at the time, we did not believe her story that he wrote it.)

My point is that you cannot write a rule for EVERYthing your child(ren) is going to come up with so try for some generic rules that you can enforce.


Clean and neat!


Personal hygiene shows your respect for your body and effects how others see you. You will have your body for your whole life – think about what you’re putting into it (healthy foods), how what you do or don’t do effects your body long term (wiping, brushing, and washing prevent infection). If a child is consistently brushing their teeth they are more likely to be taking care of their other personal hygiene.


Take care of personal property, yours and others.

Everyone can contribute!


This includes school work, chores, therapy. Learning how to do an A+ job, fast and snappy instead of slow and crappy will result in you living your life in an A+ manner. We do not expect perfection, but if you do a bad job, you get a chance to repeat the job until it's a good job.


Damaged relationships are going to be around until you fix them, and things that are fixed are usually never quite as strong as they were before. Watch how you use your words and attitude. We always try to be Christ-like. Would you say or do that if Christ were standing next to that person?

Fun to be around!


This is really the only rule! It includes all of the above.

R – Respectful – You are expected to be kind, courteous, and helpful in everything you say or do. Think before you act and remember words can leave irreparable scars on your relationships.

R – Responsible – You are expected, and fully capable of, meeting your rights and responsibilities. You are also responsible for taking care of yourself, and taking care of the people around you –especially the people that love you. Your family loves you and is there to help you.

H – Honest – Not only does this mean not lying, but includes being honest and true to yourself. It also means being open and honest about your feelings and needs to those who love you and are trying to help you (like family and therapists).

A - Attitude a positive one! Which ties into the next rule -

FTBA – Fun To Be Around – You are expected to generally be fun to be around all the time, or at the very least pleasant. This is not easy to do, but you are capable of it. If you are not feeling fun to be around, then you need to think about how to fix this (you can ask for help), and/or how to protect others from your bad mood or whatever is making you not fun to be around (this might mean staying away from others while you work this through). It definitely does not mean inflicting your bad mood on others, or trying to make them stop being in a good mood because it annoys you when you're in a bad mood.

These are OUR family rules. YOUR family rules would probably look a little different. Do some research into other families' rules. Mine came from a wide variety of sources and I adapted them to our needs. They change occasionally as our family grows and changes. We also have another document with much more detailed rules (and insight as to WHY these are rules), but the 5 listed here are really all we HAVE to have. Because some of our kids are special needs and new to our family these cover the basics in a way they can understand. We probably have some rules that aren't needed in other families.

When it comes to family rules there are 3 very important things to remember.

a. We expect all our family members to be RRHAFTBA, and in return we all enjoy the rights and responsibilities that go with being part of this loving family. We do NOT try to make everything equal for everyone. We respect that each of our children has a different personality, is a different age, and has different wants, needs and abilities. Unlike the FAIR Club, being part of our family means we sometimes cut a family member some slack and sometimes we’re here to help them live up to being More than average or equal.

b. When enforcing the rules stay calm and loving! (See my first post in this series). Try to step into your child's shoes on occasion and remember to be patient with them! Beyond Consequences Logic and Control by Heather Forbes is a great book for helping do this.

c. Make sure your rules are enforceable and stick to them! (See my post about the FAIR Club for what to do when your child breaks the rules.)

Tips & Warnings

This post is really for older children who have the ability to exercise some self-control as well as to understand abstract rules. Younger children can memorize the rules, but don't really have the impulse control needed to follow them. (Of course I also know adults who know better than to put their fists through walls, but don't have the impulse control needed to not do it!). Some of my children are still working on this concept, but it's good to have goals!

If you've ever trained a dog you learn that at first you reward all efforts with a treat (positive reinforcement), after awhile you reward only occasionally with a treat and occasionally with just praise and petting... eventually the dog will consistently do the trick in the hopes that he might get a treat or praise... this also works with negative behavior though! If you do not want your dog on the couch and USUALLY reprimand him and make him get down, but occasionally you let him stay (for whatever reason). Guess what?! You've trained him to get on the couch! He's always hoping this will be the time when you just don't have the energy to kick him off and he can dig under the cushions for lost popcorn.

Children often whine, beg, nag, sneak, argue, make you feel sorry for them - anything to get you to let them get away with breaking the rules... just this once! Remember they are learning that this means they do not have to do what you say anymore and you have not just lost control - you've given it away!

How to discipline your difficult child - FAIR Club Introduction

How to discipline your difficult child (without spanking or spoiling) - Introduction to the FAIR Club

By Marythemom

Have you tried tons of discipline methods, only to find that they don't work on your child or stop working after a few weeks? This series of posts is designed to help you discipline your difficult child(ren) without spanking or spoiling. Works with tweens, teenagers, special needs children and semi-lazy parents; HOWEVER, this does not work well with children under the emotional age of about 8.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
Child(ren) approximately age 8 to 16 years
Patience and empathy
Copy of the FAIR Club
Did I mention patience?!

I'll admit it, most of my children are only sweet about 25% of the time. So here's how I handle them the other 75+% of the time now that they're too big to pick up and put in timeout and are smart enough to think things through!  Always keeping in mind that they all have different cognitive and emotional abilities.

For younger children (this refers to Emotional Age, not just calendar age), I recommend Therapeutic Parenting. My kids with severe emotional/ attachment issues, tend to do better with a lot of Structure and Caring Support rather than the FAIR Club discipline method. 

In a family meeting, introduce the Family Rules (if you need help see my next post on writing family rules). Keep the rules short and meaningful, remembering the age of your audience during the meeting (just like a timeout this meeting should take no more than one minute per year of age). Make sure the rules include the concept of RRHAFTBALL!


RRespectfulYou are expected to be respectful to yourself (and your possessions) as well as other people (and their possessions).

R – ResponsibleYou are expected to be responsible for yourself and your actions. You are the only person who can control your body, what you say, and what you think.

H – HonestNot only does this mean not lying, but includes being honest and true to yourself. It also means being open and honest about your feelings and needs to those who love you and are trying to help you (like parents and therapists).

AFTBA Attitude/Fun To Be Around - You are expected to be fun to be around all the time.  This is not easy to do, but you are capable of it.  This does not mean that you must be happy at all times!  It simply means that you are not to "inflict yourself" on others when you are not in a good mood.

Added after our adopted children had been with us for awhile and were a little more attached:

L – Loving  Sharing and caring.  We watch out for (actively helping) the emotional and physical well being of all family members including ourselves.  This means having give and take in our relationships with each other (not expecting others to do all the work and caring).  We work on issues we might have with being loving.  Isolating yourself is not usually going to help you with this. 

L – Learning  We are always trying to improve ourselves and our lives.  We educate ourselves both in school and about being a better person.  We want to be productive, helpful citizens of the world.  We believe we should be the best person we can possibly be.

Let children know the consequences of breaking each of the rules as you go along. Natural and Logical Consequences work best because children learn best from them.  I prefer not to use the same consequences every time, because my children often decide that "doing the crime" is worth "doing the time" (especially those that don't believe they'll ever get caught).

  • Natural Consequences - what happens if parents don't interfere (ex. a child runs away from you in the mall - and gets lost and scared). This is the MOST effective means of discipline. (Think about it - as a teen, how many times did your parents lecture you to drive the speed limit; you read it in the driver's handbook; you saw the signs posted on the side of the road. I'm guessing you ignored all that and got a speeding ticket, right?! I'm also guessing that made you more likely to drive slower. If you actually had an accident from driving too fast you're even more likely to drive the speed limit. People tune out lectures and nagging - consequences get their attention.)
  • Logical Consequences - is what happens when you don't want to allow the natural consequence to occur (especially if the child could get seriously injured or killed), but you want the child to still make the connection (ex. the next time you go to the mall the child must hold your hand). You might even give a real life lesson by allowing a child who habitually runs away to think they have gotten lost (while you keep an eye on the child from a hidden vantage point).

Natural and logical consequences are the most efficient way to teach a child. Lectures, spankings, losing stickers, grounding and timeouts are usually so unrelated to the "crime" that often all they "teach" the child is to try not to get caught and to work the system. When I use a "standard punishment," my kids will often decide whether or not the crime is worth the time.

Sometimes natural and logical consequences are difficult to apply. This is why we use the FAIR Club which uses logical consequences in a structured format.

If you have a non-compliant child remember that there are lots of things you can do (assuming this is not a life or death situation). Some of my children are bigger than I am and/or have diagnoses (like Oppositional Defiant Disorder) that make it difficult to enforce typical punishments like sending them to their room (ever try to send an angry 200lb 13yr old to his room?!) or spanking (did I mention he's 5'9?!).

What do you do when you can't MAKE them do what they're supposed to do anymore:

  • Give YOURSELF a timeout. - Take a minute (one minute per year of your age works!) and step back from the situation. Do not give the child their "consequences" until you've had a chance to calm down and think of something that is "logical" and hopefully helps the child learn how to do it better next time. This also gives them some time to worry about it too! If possible and safe, remove yourself from your child (the bathroom usually has a lock!).
  • The CHILD decides when they're ready to be out of the FAIR Club - Let the child know that they can complete their consequence(s) whenever THEY are ready. Of course, in the meantime they are in the FAIR Club and this means no fun outings, having an earlier bedtime, no electronics...
  • Remember, this is not YOUR problem. Remain calm and logical (if you can't, you might want to give yourself a timeout until you can!). Sympathize with the child (be VERY sincere - kid's can sense sarcasm a mile away and will immediately shut down!), but do NOT give in. "Wow. That really sucks. What are you going to do about it?"
  • Read or reread Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster Cline for some ideas of consequences and realistic expectations.. (Parenting Teens with Love and Logic is good too!).  But keep in mind that these books are written for kids who are attached (and therefore care if Mom and Dad are upset with them) and are cognitively able to understand consequences.

  • Be sure the child is ready for the FAIR Club. For younger children, I recommend Therapeutic Parenting instead of the FAIR Club. My kids with severe emotional/ attachment issues who are emotionally much younger  (this refers to Emotional Age, not calendar age), tend to do better with a lot of Structure and Caring Support rather than the FAIR Club discipline method

Our goal is not punishment - it's discipline.  We want to help our children make better choices and learn from their mistakes.  Restitution is therefore very important.  Both to teach our children that reciprocity is key in any relationship, and to give us at least a little bit of a refill for our own tank.

It's not your fault.  It's your challenge.

Step6 - SELF-CARE!
Last but definitely not least - TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! You'd be amazed at how much difference this makes.  I know you hear this all the time, and I'm certainly a case of do as I say, not as I do, but you have to make yourself and your needs FIRST PRIORITY!!!

If MAMA ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!

  • FIND A SUPPORT GROUP of people who "get it." If you don't have anyone local, try online. You can find anything on the internet these days!
  • EXERCISE - try Christine Moer's (Welcome To My Brain) hoop challenge (30 minutes for 30 days)
  • LAUGH! Find whatever makes you lol and check it out daily.  Whether that's iFunny, Funny Mom Blogs, or Spongebob.
    One of my personal faves is 99 Ways to Drive Your Child Sane by Brita St. Clair - This short little book is full of wild ideas and hysterical humor to bring the laughter back into a home with an emotionally disturbed child.  It includes lots of "one liners" and silly, fun ways to help parents avoid anger around tough topics. Written by a very experienced and loving Therapeutic Mom with years of success helping tough kids heal.
Check out other posts about the FAIR Club (like The Family Rules)  on the right sidebar of this blog.

The FAIR Club