The FAIR Club
I have a biodaughter [Bob] that is very bright. She’s always figured out ways around every discipline method we ever had, or I got tired of doing all the work. I’m a huge reader and would try every discipline method I could find. We tried 1-2-3 Magic, sticker charts, time outs, spanking, grounding, Love and Logic… NOTHING worked for more than 6 weeks (if that long).
When our “new” children were placed for adoption they were 11 and 13, my bios were 7 and 10. Once I began to suspect they had RAD I started reading. One of the first things I read was a Nancy Thomas book. I remember looking at the concept of Strong Sitting and thinking, “How in the world would I get my 5’9” 210lb raging (among other things he had untreated bipolar we didn’t know about) son [Bear] to do this?” Our 11 year old daughter [Kitty] was physically smaller, but diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (now we know it was RAD). Don’t get me wrong, I liked the concepts in Nancy Thomas’s books, but couldn’t figure out how to implement them with my specific kids, at that age, and with younger biokids who didn’t, and didn’t need to, do those things.
One of the biggest problems (excluding the raging and homicide/ suicide threats) that we had with all the kids was constantly hearing, “THAT’S NOT FAAAIIIIRRR!!!” *insert nasal whine* It was making me insane! So when I started the FAIR club, one instant way to get put in it was to say, “That’s not fair.” I have not heard that phrase in 2 years (didn’t change the feeling, just the behavior).
The FAIR Club makes life fair. Family life is not fair. We usually give our children privileges and material things that most other children don’t have. Sometimes we cut them some slack when they’re having issues, sometimes we’re harder on them because we know they can do better or because that’s what our family does. Some examples, I might do a chore for a child with a lot of homework. I only let them listen to Christian music on their MP3 players. In a “fair” life many kids don’t have parents who will do their chores, MP3 players or have parents who care what they listen to – so if I make things “FAIR,” they wouldn’t have an MP3 at all.
The main way kids get in the FAIR Club is by breaking a family rule. Our family rules are pretty simple. You must be RRHAFTBA (pronounced RAFT BAH). (Respectful, Responsible, Honest, and Fun To Be Around).
The concept behind the discipline portion of the FAIR Club is to remove a lot of the stress that goes with making decisions (like bedtime, where you’re going to sit, what you’re going to do with your friends…). It also allows them to focus on being with the family. A child in the FAIR Club needs more sleep (so earlier bedtime), they have assigned seats, there are very few “electronics” (phone, music players, TV, computers…) allowed so they can concentrate on getting out of the FAIR Club. The only activities they can attend are with the family (this benefits us too, so no one has to sit home with the child in trouble when everyone else goes out to eat or to the park or wherever). They are not allowed to isolate themselves in their room - they need to spend time with the family learning the right way to do things.
Once you’re in the FAIR Club you cannot get out for 24 hours minimum, but the maximum time is up to the child. They MUST be RRHAFTBA, finish their writing assignment (which often includes apologies where applicable), and finish any extra chores assigned (which usually includes either fixing what they damaged or making amends to the person or people they hurt – like doing some of Mom’s chores because she had to spend 2 hours dealing with your fit).
This means I do not have to nag or in any other way enforce the rules. Only when they are RRHAFTBA and their assignments and chores are done, can they get out. Unlike grounding they cannot be horrid for the time they are grounded and still be done. It is also subjective - so if I don't think they are Fun To Be Around or acting Respectfully to everyone, then they are still in the FAIR Club. If they refuse to go to bed at their new earlier time, well that's OK too. There are other things I can enforce more easily (like electronics, taking them places, and seeing their friends), and they are in the FAIR Club until they are compliant.
FAIR Club consequences are not intended to be punishments. They are trying to help the child learn why what they did was wrong and about restitution. I try to make all consequences as “Logical” as possible (in other words related to what caused them to be in trouble in the first place). This really helps too when you have children of differing abilities commit an offense. For example, One of my children [Ponito] stole a dog treat and ate it (Eeew!). His sister [Kitty] egged him on. Technically both children went in the FAIR Club.
The “neurotypical” child (the one who ate the cookie), had an immediate consequence of apologizing to the store manager for shoplifting and offering to pay for the cookie (he would have to pay double the cost from his allowance – so if the manager had charged him $.25 he would have lost $.50 – the extra money usually goes to us). Then he had a writing assignment, that involved writing a paragraph (he was in 3rd grade) about why it was wrong to shoplift (I pulled articles off the internet for this one), and he had to listen to me talk about what goes into a dog treat (it is so disgusting that most of the children listening gagged and probably would have thrown up if I hadn’t stopped). I don’t remember what his chore was, I don’t always assign them.
His sister has major learning disabilities, could not emotionally handle anything that hinted at criticism, was not at all attached to us yet, and is emotionally much younger (about age 4 which is too young for the FAIR Club). She did not get put in the FAIR Club (which at the time caused major meltdowns). I “justified” this because she did not actually take a dog treat. She did however have to stand next to her brother while he talked to the store owner, and I did require her to listen to the disgusting information about how dog treats are prepared (believe me that was a punishment). While she did not technically go in the FAIR Club, I believe she still reaped the benefits of it.
We've used the FAIR Club for over 2 years. It is still in effect, but rarely used now. Well, the writing assignments and chores are rarely used. In a lot of ways my RAD kids are always in the FAIR Club. They get a lot of extra supervision and enforced family time. Every time I interact with them, I’m thinking about what are they learning from this, is this therapeutic, are they learning to understand the consequences of their choices…
This response is already long enough.
Please let me know if you have any other questions. I could write a book about it, but I tried (and I’m sure failed) to not do so here. I also have a much more thorough document, that I can send anyone who wants it. I haven’t posted it on my blog because it’s too big.