Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I've Got My Perfect Child Back!

Yep, he's back, FS#2 is behaving as the perfect child. He is buzzing around the house doing all his chores; he took the trash can out a day early. He is even doing things without being asked such as cleaning out the car, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning, organizing, etc... Of course I am very amused by all of this. This spate of perfection is temporary. It is occurring as a direct result of the 'bad' week we had last week. He is hoping that if he is perfect a) that I won't send him away because of the 'bad' things he did, b) I will overlook the 'bad' things he did last week and still get him his own computer and c) that we are still 'all-right'. But in addition to all the anxiety he is displaying being the perfect child, there is also an attitude of relief, the-weight-of-the-world-just-got-lifted-of-my-shoulders-giddy-as-a-school-girl type of relief. He had a bad week that in the past would have disrupted his placement and yet he is still here, in HIS room, with HIS cats in HIS home. Yes, he is quite giddy with relief.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the 'bad' week involved inappropriate use of the cell phone, and the computer. Once I investigated further, I found that the picture were just the tip of the iceberg. I found evidence that lead me to believe that there could be potential legal and safety issues involved, which is why I called a team meeting. So perhaps you are wondering what I did about all of this. Well actually, I did very little. I did not ground him, I did not confiscate his cell phone nor did I restrict or eliminate his computer privileges. So what did I do???? I calmly had a conversation with him. I told him I was worried about those pictures and I hoped that those pictures were not stored on my computer because that would be terribly inappropriate. He assured be that there was only 1 picture (little lie) and that were not stored on the computer, he wouldn't do that (another little lie). I told him I was glad that they were not on the computer (so I lied too), because I liked our relationship the way it is and I would hate it if I felt I couldn't trust him and had to invade his privacy to check up on him. He insisted that wouldn't be necessary that he hasn't done anything wrong and he is trustworthy. I told him "Good" cause I like being able to trust him. As far as I was concerned the topic was closed. Not for him! He proceed to claim his innocence and trustworthiness and that he never gave me any reason not to trust him and he didn't understand why I was doing this to him. The only thing I said was "I do trust you and I'm not doing anything to you".

So why did I do very little in the way of providing consequences? Because for this kid, it seem to me to be the best way to go. In part because much of what he was doing is developmentally appropriate. OK in bad taste, in bad judgement, but developmentally appropriate. The problem is that his behavior may be developmentally appropriate but he does not have the social or emotional skills to handle this particular developmentally appropriate behavior. In his previous placements he was expected to be perfect and when he wasn't, he was punished and if that didn't work he was removed. I felt that punitive action for something that is developmentally appropriate and is being done by all the other kids he knows could break his spirit. And I have worked very hard to earn this kid's trust and convince him that we could work out anything no matter what, as long as we were willing to talk about it. Coming in and cracking down and removing all of his privileges I felt would do more harm than good.

The other reason I did very little is that I went back and reviewed the boundaries that I had set up for cell phone and computer use. And I realized that there was nothing wrong with the boundaries that I set up, the problem came in the implementation. He was doing so well. He had progressed so far. He gave me no cause for concern and perhaps I got a little lax in monitoring his use... ok so I got very lax in monitoring. So, I have to take some responsibility for what occurred during the 'bad' week. By having that conversation with him, I was giving him the opportunity to correct one of his bad decisions which I thought would be much more effective then having me go in and remove the inappropriate material.

In addition to that short conversation, I am in the process of writing down the 'house rules'. Rules, curfews, chores, expectations, consequences and rewards will be clearly outlined. These 'house rules' will be generated in collaboration with FS#2 so that that I have his buy in. This will hopefully avoided in confusion or miscommunication. Also, it will help to keep me honest.
I'm not suggesting that this will work for every kid; FS#2 and I are bonded, he doesn't like to disappoint me, he likes to please me and feels guilt when does disappoint me.

Oh and if anyone is interested, when I went and checked the inappropriate material had been removed and he came to me and told me that I had permission to look at his account anytime I wanted, now and even when he gets his own computer. [He is still holding out hope, though I think a little bit more demonstration of responsibility and better decision making skills are in order first]


  1. Love this! We just had a bad week too. Like you, our kid was doing something most of the other kids were doing. Like you, we went with light consequences - we gave him the opportunity to "own" the situation instead and he did okay, though he did rage a bit at us for "forcing" him to do certain things (like pursue a job he wants - LOL). We also drew up a contract a few weeks ago and it's working pretty good. Like your FS2, we got a bunch of "make up" behaviors after the rage - he offered us ice cream, did his chores, and brought us his pet lizard for some snuggle time. The apology behaviors crack me up. They do seem to come right at the moment when previous placements would have disrupted - "giddy as a schoolgirl" is exactly the right description!

  2. It's at times like these when I realize how very different my son's issues make him. We go through the same type of issues, but don't get any of the "make up" behaviors. He sees it as pulling stuff over on us if we don't catch him and give him consequences, and then he feels unsafe because the adults around him aren't smart enough to catch him.

    Mary in TX