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!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Labeling, stealing and money


Someone asked me if it was really necessary for Bear to "buy into" his labels and understand them. I think the last post highlights that yes, he must understand. If Bear thinks he's "normal," then he has no motivation to do anything to deal with his issues. In fact all of his energy is devoted to getting away from the mean people who think he's not normal and that he should be doing stuff he doesn't want to do. (By the way, the "mean people" is mostly me in case you hadn't guessed).

Everyone around him (school, friends, girlfriends...), is telling him he's fine. The special program he’s in for emotionally disturbed kids sees that he is no longer physically aggressive, and do not consider him severe enough to need to be there anymore. None of these people have a relationship with him. There is no give and take, and they really know nothing about him. He can and does function in public, and that is a huge step forward. However, he will eventually have to have relationships with people that lasts longer than 6 months. How does that saying go?

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
Abraham Lincoln, (attributed)16th president of US (1809 - 1865)

It is easy for Bear to fool people who are not around him much. Truthfully he fools some people who are around him all the time too. Even those who know him well enough to understand that he has serious issues, cannot agree on how best to help him. Unfortunately Hubby and I fall into this last category, and it is not helping our relationship at all.


A couple of weeks ago I took away the controllers to the kids' Playstation (PS2). I forget why. They were probably breaking a rule - like not getting off when they were supposed to get off. It was easier to just take the controllers away than to unhook the whole unit, or trust the kids to stay off of it. I put the controllers on a top shelf in a hall closet. Not hidden. Just put away.

Ponito is the one who loves the PS2, and had finally talked me into letting him have the controllers back. The controllers weren't there. We searched the garage and the common areas of the house, but couldn't find them.

Bear steals. Not counting food the thing he takes most frequently is electronic items, mostly from the family. Headphones and batteries are the most frequently taken items, but he's been caught with cell phones, DVD players, MP3 players, battery chargers, stereos.... By the time I find these items in his room they are usually broken.

Today while searching Bear's room, I found lots of food and dishes and one contraband CD, but no controllers; however, he's stopped hiding stuff in his room because he knows I search it. I asked Hubby to matter of factly ask Bear to return the controllers when Hubby picked Bear up from JROTC PT after school. I don't know what happened, but I do know that they came home 1 1/2 hours late because they were talking. Obviously Bear denied any knowledge of the missing controllers.

The other kids aren't perfect and I know that, but generally I know them well enough to know that this particular theft is not something they would do. Bob has no motivation. Ponito wanted the controllers, but unless he's gone to acting school recently he didn't know where they were. Plus, now he can't play with them. So again, no motivation.

Kitty is the one Hubby and I don't agree on. I believe Kitty is very honest. If she doesn't want to do something you'll know - she'll melt down. Sometimes we wonder if her obliviousness is passive aggressive, but that's not the same as stealing. Hubby thinks that this might be her way of getting back at Ponito whom she sometimes hates, but I don't see that. She yells, she threatens, she has hurt others physically, and with spreading rumors, but honestly I don't think that this is the way her brain works.

Kitty's been in our home almost 3 years and in that time she's only taken one thing that remotely seems like this - some confiscated Bratz dolls, but those were for her, not to hurt someone else, and she and Bob probably egged each other on. She does not play PS2. She would have had to take and hide or trash the controllers deliberately to hurt Ponito and no one else (she never does anything that would get her in trouble with Bob and Bear because she is afraid of them). This would be a pretty intentional act, and I just don't see her thinking of it and carrying it out.

So to me this means Bear did it. No, we didn't catch him this time, but we've caught him in the past. No it would not hold up in a court of law, but we are parents not judges, and if Bear keeps getting away with the stealing I believe it will make him worse.

He had plenty of motivation: He’s mad at Ponito for “ratting him out” a couple of times over the last couple of weeks. He’s mad at me for taking the game controllers (I didn’t say it was a good reason). He thinks the PS2 is his because it came with him, even though he sold it to the family because he didn’t play with it anymore and he wanted the money to help pay for his pet snake. Since the controllers are not in his room, my guess is that he sold them or gave them to a friend – giving him cash or “credit.” He often sells things to make money.

Hubby has never been able to punish/ discipline without proof though so I guess nothing will happen. This is hard on our relationship. We'll agree to disagree, but I still think this is wrong.

I think we should have Bear do extra chores to earn the money to replace the controllers (double the cost).
I think his MP3 (one of the few things he still owns and has not broken) should be taken as collateral until the money is paid back.
At the very least I think I think we need to seriously consider putting an alarm on his door.
We’ve talked about locking the pantry and the garage (a common hiding spot for him, and we have a fridge and freezer there in which we could keep food we don’t want eaten). This would be difficult, but not as directly accusatory.
We rarely leave Bear home alone even for a few minutes as it is, but definitely stop this practice completely.
Bear hates going to Grandma’s house on Saturday nights. We love our date nights. Items are missing from Grandma’s house. We should probably not send him to Grandma’s anymore, but I hate that this is a reward for him and a punishment for us.


It's not ideal, but due to financial issues we have not been able to give the kids their allowance for almost a year. They are still earning their allowance though, and I'm keeping track of it. I know for Bear and Kitty that their lack of ability to fully comprehend the future and long term consequences means that this is pretty useless concept, but I can't do it for some and not all.

They do not earn an allowance if they are in the FAIR Club. They earn about $5 a week if they do all their chores, with an extra $1 for good attitude. Because Kitty is doing half chores she gets $2.50 instead of $5. Needless to say she has almost nothing compared to her siblings. If they don't mark the chore chart they don't get paid, even if they did their chores. Gotta admit, lazy chore checkers save me a ton of money! *grin* They'll figure it out one of these days.

When the kids want spending money or have to pay off a debt, we've been making them earn the cash by doing extra chores. NO ONE can access their allowance. It's like it's in savings.

One last option for a consequence for Bear is to deduct the money from his allowance. In his mind this would not be a very severe consequence because it is not "real" money. There are 3 missing controllers. I think I paid about $15 apiece. Since the consequence is double that would be about $90. I know he has over $250 in his "account."


Did I mention that Bear still owes me $60? When he dropped football and switched to JROTC, he needed to pay $100 for his uniform and stuff. Since we'd already paid for all his football stuff we figured it was only fair that he pay the extra $100. He thought he could just do some yard work and pay it back quickly, but he lost all his clients. Hubby had confiscated $40 from Bear's last job and was going to put it in a savings account in a bank for Bear. This went toward the JROTC stuff instead.

I altered a bridal dress for a friend and got paid in cash. I loaned Bear the remaining $60 at the beginning of the school year. He's made no effort to pay me back. We talked about it once when he wanted to borrow money to take his current girlfriend to homecoming. He was not happy when I told him he had to pay me back first.

I'm sure he's hoping that I will just forget this money was ever owed. I'm sure he's forgotten it.


Anonymous said...

Upon leaving Grandma's (at her door if you pick them up, at yours if she drops them off), do a bag search. Since Bear would be likely to quickly figure out to put any stolen goods in another kid's bags, don't assign blame, just return her stuff to her. -- or is he leaving her house while he is there?

Idea for not-quite-real allowance: Give them tokens to stand-in for the cash they'll get some day? (Ah, but then those tokens would need to be guarded). Maybe a visual color progress chart?

I tell you, either Bear is more normal than you think, or my eldest is more too-far-from-center than I want to believe. (Mine was stealing my pens and selling them to fellow students in middle school!) My son would not have understood that selling me something of his meant that it was really no longer his.

Bear is still very young. The "common" advice for parents of boys w/ ADHD is that they are about 4 years younger than their chronological age, and that they usually start acting more grown-up around age 21. I am still in a bit of shock that mine did do some serious growing when he turned 21. He's not "there" in my book -- not by a long shot -- but he finally shows that he might be capable of reasonable maturity.

Miz Kizzle said...

This is a tough one. It's an issue with many parts to it, the main three being the missing controller, the money Bear already owes you and the items stolen from GM's house.
I think a surprise bag check when the kids get picked up from grandma's is a great idea. That way you and your hubby won't have to forgo much-needed time alone together and Bear won't be "rewarded" by not having to go to grandma's house.
I guess the main concern is the missing controller. Yes, Bear probably took it, but it's by no means certain. It could have been mislaid or taken by a visitor. I know that's unlikely but unless you have proof that Bear swiped it he will argue that he's being unfairly accused. You're really not on solid ground without proof.
You can try the age-old tactic used by cops by going with your gut instinct and confronting him by telling him you know he sold the controller and you want it either returned or replaced. THat might work or it might make him angry and defensive.
I'd be inclined to chalk it up to experience and keep future confiscated items under lock and key.