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!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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

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