How the Level System works:
Level privileges requires daily completion of ALL the responsibilities of that level and ALL prior levels. Non-completion of ANY responsibility will move child back to the privilege level containing that responsibility. To move up to the next level's privileges, she needs to demonstrate an ability to maintain that level's responsibilities for a period of time. This will hopefully demonstrate an emotional ability to handle the privilege (for example, not having nightmares before being allowed to watch media I think triggers her).
Basic Responsibilities are Self Care (hygeine, taking meds, eating meals) and Basic Safety (No meltdowns, no threatening self or others.
Basic Privileges are Approved music and books, slightly earlier bedtime, and family activities.
Level 1 Responsibilities are Personal Responsibilities (room and clothing chores) and Emotional Responsibilities (being respectful, and no gossip).
Level 1 Privileges (2 days maintenance required before can get privileges) are regular bedtime, less supervision on media, being allowed to spend the night at Grandma's and go to church/Sunday School with direct supervision.
Chores will be inspected by Mom and must meet her standards. If child is unable to accept feedback then child will be redirected to another activity.
Level 2 Responsibilities include the Chores (maintaining one of the bathrooms) and Emotional Responsibilities (No whining)
Level 2 Privileges (3 days maintenance required) include riding the school bus, having (female) friends over, and being allowed to do stuff and make choices without direct supervision (media, church...)
Level 3 Responsibilities include some Kitchen Chores which can be triggering for Kitty, but aren't the ones that specifically do so and Emotional Responsibility is sleeping well without nightmares (because the privileges include potentially triggering media).
Level 3 Privileges (1 week maintenace required)- Lot less monitoring
Level 4 Responsibilities include Kitchen Chores that are triggering. The Emotional Responsibility is not dissociating or isolating.
Level 4 Privileges (2 week maintenance required) include a cell phone and dating. The cell phone is what triggered this latest episode.
Level 5 Responsibilities include a few more Kitchen Chores, handling her own meds, and being RRHAFTBALL.
Level 5 Privileges (1 month maintenance required) this is the life of a typical 16yo.
I'll be telling Kitty that we expect her to work her way slowly through the steps, and that we expect her to maintain at about Level 2. In order to head off a meltdown, we will be putting everyone on this system for a week to show her why they are at the levels they are at. Bob will have homework as her major chore. We'll probably switch out "Be Where You're Supposed to Be When You're Supposed to Be There" for "No Whining" for Bear.
She's going to hate it. She's going to protest, even though it's as concrete and positive as I can make it... but she's mentally ill, and this is our life. This is really to give to all the people who've been saying we can fix this if we just...
Edited to add how the level system worked for us:
I thought I'd written a post on my decision to throw out the level system and expectations that Kitty can ever be expected to be treated like a 17yo, but apparently I hadn't.
How we "fixed it," mostly involved me learning why Kitty was acting the way she did and providing her with more structure and support, but more importantly, age-appropriate, therapeutic parenting.
Low Tolerance/ Overwhelm
It is sometimes necessary to simplify a child’s life a LOT to lessen the feeling of “overwhelm.” This can be like childproofing – avoiding and removing things and events that can be triggers. This can be making their world smaller and lowering expectations.
One thing Kitty's therapist recommended was stripping her room. Nothing but a bed, one book, and one stuffed animal. It was NOT a punishment, and not something they could "earn" back (or actually not earn back, because my kids are afraid to be emotionally attached to things as it gives others power over them so they pretended indifference to them. ).
For a time, I even took my daughter's dresser out of her room and had her check out her clothes each day (this cut way down on the wet pull-ups stuffed behind dressers and other places).
We also cut back on the chore expectations she "should" be able to handle. I would break down tasks into small steps and give them to her one at a time. Instead of saying, "Clean your room," which was overwhelming and just didn't happen. I would say, "Empty your trashcan." and when that was done, then I would say, "Put your dirty clothes in your laundry basket." When that was done, I would say, "Put your laundry basket next to the washing machine." Most of the time, I would have to do these things with her (not for her, but be present in the room, often helping clean near her). Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kids Can't Handle.
Eventually, she got to where she could do a few tasks at a time, but the chaos in her head will always be reflected in the chaos of her room. I still help her keep it regulated. Therapeutically Parenting the Adult Child
School - reducing or eliminating homework, getting the child in smaller class sizes, limiting or removing after school activities...
We had a long discussion with Kitty about being emotionally 6 (still ticks her off to hear that), and I told her that it wasn't fair for us to expect her to be able to handle certain responsibilities or privileges and that we felt it was cruel to dangle higher level privileges she couldn't achieve over her head. So therefore, I was going to stop "punishing" her for not being able to do things she wasn't ready for yet. I also emphasized that parenting her based on her emotional age wasn't a punishment and it would have a lot of rewards.
So now I have "age-appropriate" expectations for her, and she is doing better. Every now and then she'll want something her siblings have (like any "younger" sibling would!) and we gently explain she's not ready for that. She doesn't like it, but it is what it is. Therapeutic Parenting Based on Developmental Age
Examples of what age-appropriate parenting looks like for Kitty.. (Obviously this is not how I phrase it to Kitty when I talk about it to her:
- She has fewer chores and they are very simple and concrete.
- She does the same chores every day instead of rotating like the other kids.
- She gets to go places even if she'd had a fit recently, because I don't hold her accountable for her behavior like I would a teen.
- If I go places like the grocery store I take her with me. Period. The other kids frequently have the option to go or not, but you don't leave a 6 year old at home alone.
- She can have "playdates," but they are well supervised.
It has helped ME immensely. I'm less frustrated by her inability to do things that would be "normal" for a teen. I do have to constantly remind myself, "She's only 6! She's only 6! She's only 6!"
A couple of months ago, Hubby gave Ponito his old phone, which has internet access, so we decided to give Kitty Ponito's old iPod. I debated long and hard because it has texting and internet access. I didn't think she was ready.
I was right.
Now we have to decide how to fix it. But I'll leave that for another post.
A post regarding the comments on this post.
A post regarding Kitty's reaction to the level system.