Friday, June 18, 2010

Help for the Adoption Journey - Why therapeutic parenting helps

Life around here right now is chaos to say the very least. I am busy trying to get ready to run a day camp program, Calvin's birthday is coming, school is ending, Father's Day is Sunday, Calvin is "graduating" from therapy, we are all going to be honoured for our work as a family at an AGM on Tuesday and Calvin is expected to read his book about feelings that he wrote at therapy this year, the dog has been sick... oh yeah and the the boys met us in early July. So it would not be hard to choose a reason for the boys to be disregulated and let me tell you, disregulated they are.

So what's my point, my point is that how I deal with that disregulation either makes or breaks our day. If I can not stay calm and regulated there is no way that my kids can. If I can be therapeutic in my interventions with them than we have a good chance of making it through our days with some actual learning taking place and perhaps even a little healing.

There have been so many moments in the last 24 hours that I could tell you all about like, the child who could for the life of him could not figure out how to put a sheet on his brothers bed, or the boy who who got around the no drinking water after dinner rule by having a huge glass of water moments before dinner so that he would still wet his bed. There was the child who cheated on a test at school and the child who thought it would be a good idea to try to sneak toys to school yet again and a child who hit his father when he was mad at his brother.

There are no shortage of moments that I could of dealt with by yelling and just issuing a consequence, a quick solution to what might appear to be just a misbehaving child but little would be learned from a quick solution and in many ways it would just reinforce their negative beliefs about themselves and their attachment to me. I not saying that there is no consequences for their actions but I am saying that it is not the first place we should go because it serves no purpose.

Let me walk you through a conversation this morning with Calvin to illustrate my point:

We were running behind this morning and so I went to get Calvin's bag so I could pack it for him to help get them to the bus on time. I opened his bag and low and behold there were a number of toys inside. They are not allowed to take toys to school and so the conversation begins and let me tell you there were a few not therapeutic comments involved on my part as I got frustrated but I manged to pull it back together, this was a long conversation but I will just give you the highlights which are still pretty long

J: Calvin, why are there toys in your bag.
C: silence and angry eyes.
J: Well C, you know that when you take toys to school they will be taken away from you when you get caught. So I guess you are telling me that you are not interested in having them as your toys any and we can either put them in the garbage or give them away. 
C: more silence
J: I would like you to answer me
C: I do so want them
J: Well then why were they in your bag
C:  They were there because I wanted to take them to school
J: But you know that you are not allowed to take toys to school because they often get lost, broken or are a distraction to you in the classroom. So it seems to me that you must really not like these toys, oh wait this stuffed dog does not belong to you, it is Fudge's dog and this dinosaur must be something you really don't care about so it won't be so hard for you to give it away. I guess that is the choice you made when you put them in your bag this morning.
C: angry eyes and more silence.
J: When did you put these in your bag? ( repeated a number of times)
C: When you were outside with the dogs.
J: Oh so while I was watching the dogs you thought it would be a good idea to do something that you know that would get you in trouble, well that was a good plan
C: ( shouting) No
J:  There is no reason to shout at me. I think that maybe you decided to break the rules because you saw that your brother was in trouble this morning and he was getting a lot of attention from me and you know that if break the rules you will get my attention too.
C: silence
J: I also think that sometimes you think that you might want just try to break a rule just to see if you get caught. Perhaps you were taking these toys to school as a way to let us know that you do not care about them or the fact that someone else bought them for you because they thought that you would really like them. I think maybe you want me to know that you do not care that those people care about you and buy you things that they know you would like. Would you like to call them and talk to them about that, I could get you the phone. ( In hindsight I would not of said this because it is really shaming him into valuing relationships that he has little investment in at this point because they are with people he does not see everyday, to bad I can't take it back now.)
C: NO!
At this point things went back forth for a bit along these same lines and then I had to get Fudge out the door.
Then I came back and moved along a different path.
J: I want to know what you were feeling and thinking this morning when you decided to put those toys in your bag. I do not want you to turn on the tears and hear you say that it is because you don't like the rule or because I am the meanest mom ever and everyone else gets to do it. I want to know how you were feeling and what you were thinking. I am going to start doing the dishes and you can sit right there and when you are ready to tell me you let me know.

(This next part actually this took about 10 minute with gaps of silence in between as I went back to the dishes a number of times but I will just type it all at once. )

C: Mom, I took them because I wanted to make you mad, because I like making you mad.
J: well I have no doubt that you like to make me angry sometimes and I think that maybe that is a piece of what was happening but I want to know what your thought was and how you were feeling when you did it.
C: I don't like your rule and I do not want to follow it.
J: Well I am sorry that you do not like the rule, I am not changing it and I want to know what you were thinking in that moment that you put that those toys in your bag and I want to  know how you felt.
C: I was thinking that maybe this time I would be able to get away with it, maybe you would not check my bag and maybe I would not get caught.
J: and how were you feeling
C: It made me feel happy
J: So when you break the rules it makes you feel happy?
C: yes
J: wow, thanks for being so honest, come on over here to the table and we'll write that out a few times so we can remember it.
C: No
J: yep, I'll get the paper come on over, I'll write in the first time and then I am going to get dressed, you need to write it 10 more times and drink your orange juice before I come back downstairs and then I will drive you to school
C: glares at me but come to table and does it without complaining.

I had him write it out to keep him busy and to make sure that he could not try to tell me that he did not say it later. When he gets home from school today we will break conversation all down again and talk about how he feels and the thrill/rush he gets when he breaks the rules. It is really important to give him some distance from the situation before we talk about it again though because if we keep talking in the moment he bound to give up on me at some point and rage because he is done talking about it and he does not know any other way to get out of a situation that makes him feel uncomfortable.

He will have to give those toys away, they are just things and I will not let him put things ahead of relationships. I think that this time I am going to have him give them to people we know rather than charity because that might make more of an impact for him. He will have to make amends to Fudge for having one of his toys given away. He will have a consequence of some sort, I originally said no trampoline this afternoon but I think that I am going to retract that and change it, we will see how open he is to talking about his feelings after school and then I will decide.

I did not yell, I did not punish him or shame him into submission ( well there was that one comment) and I got a very truthful statement from him about how he feels when he breaks the rules. Now we can deal with the feelings and although it took a long time ( 35 minutes or so) it was far more productive than just getting mad and throwing the toys away.

Therapeutic parenting, try it, it works.

3 comments:

motherissues said...

It's so helpful to actually get to see this written out with your thought process there too. Thanks so much!

waldenbunch said...

You did a great job! Therapeutic parenting is awesome especially when their thought process is so foreign to you. I "get" why my kids feel and do what they do but still.........it makes me crazy!

BT said...

This is the stuff of crazy-making! You did great! I agree that the approach works too. When it starts to feel overwhelmingly time-consuming (because, boy, is it ever time consuming!), I try to convince myself that the time invested now will save more than this amount of time in future exchanges (at some point in some future I maybe can't see yet...)!