A new reader of this blog sent me an e-mail with some questions about some of my latest posts. She doesn't have special needs children, but she is a mom. It made me think about why I do things the way I do. Thanks.
“Have you thought about having Bear make up the rules/values and define himself what the consequences will be?”
Unfortunately Bear’s cognitive and trauma issues usually prevent him from being able to make decisions like defining his own consequences. He’ll just shrug and say, “I don’t know.” I do forget this and sometimes attribute craftiness and manipulating to the few times he’s suggested his own consequences. If he’s broken the rule before, then he thinks he should have the same consequences. I like to mix things up so that the kids can’t decide if the crime is worth the time. He prefers being grounded to anything because then he can isolate himself in his room (which I dislike because it does not encourage him to learn how to be part of a family). It also makes consequences become punishments – which he can handle with ease (having had much worse), and he can blame us for (mean Mom makes me suffer vs. I made a bad choice and I’m learning from it). We’re also trying to teach him the concept of restitution which he doesn’t get yet.
“I bet he will pick consequences that he feels are tough, yet are swift, to allow him to move on with life and try to focus on positive things.”
You would think so wouldn’t you? The kids don’t think they deserve positive treatment.
“Sorry, I think I have to side with Hubby on this because if the number of rules overwhelm a grown woman used to countless details, it’s got to be overwhelming for kids coming from where they are. Hubby’s idea to reduce the number of rules and just stick with the values deserves some more consideration (sorry to stir this up!).”
Yes, we do have a lot of rules. Bear must have very concrete rules. Neither he nor Kitty can generalize at all. So if I say keep your room clean – that is too general, is overwhelming, and they don’t get it, and so won’t/ can’t do it. So I break it down into its components. If I say pick up your room floor, neaten your desk top, put your clothes in the hamper, and make your bed - that might happen (although a check list is better because they can get overwhelmed if you are telling them what to do – it is perceived by them as criticizing and yelling at them). However, do not expect them to do something that is not specifically on that list – like clean up a spilled drink right away instead of waiting until they are supposed to be cleaning the floor next; if the desk is neat but sticky they would not clean it; not removing used Kotex from clothing before putting it in laundry (no, of course this doesn’t apply to Bear); if they try to darken their homemade tattoo with India ink and spill it, they will not ask for help, but instead will let it dry (yes, Bear, not Kitty)….
“And think about letting him make his rules. he will have to do that in a couple years anyway.”
Bear appears more normal, and he does a lot of normal teenage boy things, but teenage boys are not that normal to begin with. *grin* Plus, I don’t know about you, but when I went to college I went a little crazy. I cussed; I drank; I skipped school; I partied… In the end, I realized that I was making bad choices that went against my core values (values my mom had taught me since childhood). I grew up and started using my head. I fully expect Bob (my biodaughter) to do the same thing. To rebel for awhile, make her own choices about what she knew was right, and then follow her heart and head. Bear doesn’t have those core values to fall back on. He still needs to have those taught to him.
When your kids were little, you watched over them like a hawk right? You wouldn’t let a two year old wander in the street. You wouldn’t like your 3 year old gorge on candy (well maybe once if they were stubborn and you knew it was the best way to teach them a lesson). You removed dangerous objects from the reach of your toddler and preschooler. As your child got older, you lightened up. You knew you could trust them to understand right and wrong and generalize this to new situations. Not only are my kids not out of this preschool phase where they need a lot of direct supervision, but they have the added disadvantage of having access to more dangerous situations.
When Bob was young she was very big for her age. Everyone assumed she was older than she was and expected a lot from her. It was very hard on her. She could reach things she was too young to know how to handle. Imagine if everyone expected you to let your 6 year old to be allowed to drive? So while it’s tempting to say he’s going to be on his own soon we should let him start now, we have to remember that he’s just not ready and we need to take advantage of all the instructional time we have left.
“you might be trying too hard to be a perfect mom with perfect results which causes some push back.”
You are probably right. I am a perfectionist. It is most definitely hard for me to draw the line. I wish there was a manual.