Thursday, March 25, 2010

Do not be fooled

My household doesn't always run smoothly. I am not describing perfect children here, after all they are teenagers. Living with teenagers is a bit like living with cats:
  • they accept affection on their terms
  • they spend most of their time ignoring you
  • they have sharp claws
  • they will turn and scratch/hiss at you seemly without provocation
  • they want you to clean up their messes and if you don't they will make messes out of the proscribed area
  • they sleep all day
  • they want to go out all night
  • they don't want to tell you where they been
  • Some have an aversion to soap and water
  • they want to eat on demand
  • they can be picky eaters
  • they act as if they are in charge
  • your sole purpose in life is to serve them
  • they can be cute fuzzy and fun to be around
So, how do I live with the cats in my house? I recognize that like cats I can't control my teens behavior. Therefore, I have very few rules and what rules I have I set up in collaboration with them. I try to see things through their eyes. I know that at age 18 the are legally and technically adults (adults my ass, whoever made that decision should be shot!) and therefore can chose to leave my house for freedom independence. However, the only way they have any hope of being successful on their own is to develop and learn responsibility and the only way to learn responsibility is through practice. So I set up boundaries/responsibilities to help them learn to succeed without me hovering over them, for example, FS#2's computer time. I set the computer up so that certain types of sites are blocked and there are limits on time of day and how long the computer can be used. These were set up in collaboration with him and he agreed to the limits. If something is unreasonable he can come to me and present a good logical reason for why for example a site should be unblocked I do it. I have the same parental controls set up for his phone. I monitor both phone and computer use and if something inappropriate occurs I block, limit or whatever. Usually he doesn't complain because he knew he violated the rules. When he comes to me to get privilege reinstated. (and he has to come to me, I don't tell him I took the privilege away, I just do it and that is it) we talk about. If appropriate the privilege gets reinstated but only after we agree on what will happen the next time privilege is abused. Have avoided many arguments that way, not the sulking, pouting, poor pitiful me, you are only doing this because I'm a foster child attitude though. But we have come up with a solution for that too...if you are going to be in a bad mood, do not share it with everyone, do it in your room.

So far this approach seems to be working for me, but dear god, developing expectations and figuring out appropriate consequences is is hard work and frequently exhausting. It would be much easier to just set rules and exact punishments. Except according to what I learn from Raising Resilient Youth,* my job is as a parent is to teach and model responsibility and not just retaliate for when they disappoint me.

*Raising Resilient Youth is one unit of a youth and family strengthening program provided by COPES, Inc.

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