Friday, June 8, 2012

TOO SOFT

Christy just wrote a wonderful post about correction.

I have long realized that it is the "correction" piece that is the most difficult for me in parenting some of my children.   God made me compassionate; and somewhere along the line I realized that I resonate with the quote I read somewhere "To understand everything is to forgive everything."  And, for me to forgive is automatically to forget.  I can forget a child's (or anyone's) wrong-doing faster than the blink of an eye.

For example, a child will misbehave or disobey and I will give a consequence.... a likely example might be someone staying on the computer after being told to get off at a certain time.  I'll say that the next day they will lose their time.....but sure as sure, the next day I may have a vague memory that someone needed to be off the computer for some reason...but I can't recall who or why.  It is awful.  I recognize this trait as a blessing in many ways (I certainly can't hold a grudge!) but it isn't always.

And, in more complex situations, once I understand, and give instruction, I don't ever feel able to give any sort of consequence....  I'm never sure whether I ought to or not. Here is a recent example.....Anastasia has a couple of assignments she should complete to finish the school year.  She has been under an enormous amount of stress over some very serious issues, and is suffering more than I even knew. I am learning that she tends to work very hard not to share things that are painful.  So one afternoon I mentioned that she needed to finish the report and she said, "It's not happening!" I addressed that by keeping my cool and saying that it sounded to me like she was upset about it, and I said a few things to make the assignment seem do-able and said that sometimes having something to look forward to after a big effort could help motivate you.  So I offered a reward when she was done (new headphones since her present ones had stopped working.)  I deliberately left that conversation sort-of open-ended....I didn't sense that I could force her to make a specific plan without stressing her out too much. 

But, the next day she mentioned needing headphones and I cheerfully quipped that they were "on the way with the speed of a term paper."  Instead of thinking this amusing, she melted down in a way she hasn't in a long, long time - taking the mail and throwing it all over the driveway, even tearing a letter in two.  I was heading out at that moment with another child, and was REALLY glad to continue driving! 

Later that day, when she was regulated again... I brought up the term paper and her reaction to my mentioning it.  She immediately (instantaneously!) became disregulated and I could see her looking around for something to destroy.  I quipped, "Oh, let me get you some mail!"  I could see that she momentarily saw the humor and with that, her anger left but she burst into tears.  Crying is very rare for her. And she revealed how overwhelmed she is. It became clear to me that doing this paper may well be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and really... in the scheme of things, it can be dismissed.  So, I talked about her feelings, and how much better it might be to TALK to me, rather than snap and be defiant...how not everyone is going to be able to see through the defiance to something deeper, etc.  Then we talked about the underlying issues.

It was good, and later addressed in therapy....but I feel like maybe I didn't do my motherly duty in a) allowing her to go "unpunished" for being defiant, and b) allowing her not to do the paper.

From her brothers' point of view, I let her "get away" with things and am "too soft".

So, what do you think?

20 comments:

Lauri said...

I have been told that I am too soft at times as well... thank goodness for natural consequences

when I have to be firm.. I remind myself that it is my job to teach her these lessons.

kate said...

Well, there will be a natural consequence to not doing the paper, won't there? Her grade will suffer.

I remember being SHOCKED that people would---COULD--ask for an extension on a paper after I got to college. It didn't even enter the realm of possibility. But, people did.

Could she ask her teacher for an extension (so she's taking ownership--and learning how to manage feeling overwhelmed)? Perhaps she could take an incomplete in the class and finish the paper once school ends?

Tina in CT said...

Hope you don't take offense but you asked. I think she should be made to do the paper. It was an assignment. Everyone has stress and pressure and we need to cope with it and do what we need to do. It's a life lesson. She won't be able to get excused from things as she gets older.

I was brought up with strictness from my mother. Ask my daughter and she'll tell you that I was the same way. Her father was much looser.

MyGirlElena said...

I think her natural consequence will be that her grade will suffer. Then, there should be the consequence that there will be no new head sets.
I know she's been through a lot in her short life and she needs to continue going to therapy for it to learn how to regulate herself and sort out her problems. But, she is getting older and society does not care what you have lived through. Everyone is expected to perform. Period. Because, even though she had been through serious stuff, the reality is, everyone has gone through something (obviously some more damaging than others), but can you imagine if the whole world used their past as an excuse?!?

Mike and Christie said...

Annie, your plate is so full. (btw thanks for linking to my post)
When so much is going on, it is hard to follow through.
We have a saying "say what you mean and mean what you say"..... That has helped to curb what I say in correction or promise.
That way there is no back tracking. :)

The overwhelm is totally understandable if she is struggling, so the NURTURE part of the equation can be used to calm her and then, the STRUCTURE part can be used in gentle correction. "I think you know it, but it isn't ok to tear up the mail. :)" (offer a solution to the frustration.... "what do you think would be a better way to handle when you get super upset next time?" (and hold her to it) (Pinkie Promises work great for keeping one's word) :) Keeping in a calm mode, come along side and teach her how to do the paper in small bits so she can finish it .
The issue is most likely that she just doesn't want to do it, but that she is overwhelmed by the daunting task. Instead give her the assignment in smaller bits so she learns how to organize herself when writing a paper. Offering head phones probably made her feel that there was one more unattainable thing in her life, and it was something she needs, adding to frustration. (I think your intentions are great!)
Annie, you have such a sweet heart and truly want to do what is best and you know what? You are a really great mom. :)

Parenting trauma is hard and illogical to our logical brains.... :)

Hevel Cohen said...

Hm. I think it's very hard to find the right balance. But your heart is in the right place.

on our way today said...

Well my dd has done the throw a tantrum for final assignments Nd term papers etc since 4th grade. I do think sometimes they expect a lot from kids in these things. Anyway from at least 4th grade on I had to do them with my dd since she never knew where to begin or what to do next. I have been helping her all along and basically plotting out the assignment with outlines etc. not doing it for her but really directing her through the entire process. Then when she hands me the paper I will revise it for and tell her to go back and where to edit etc.

So I guess I would have made her do the assignment. Just completing them is my goal not getting an A.

But as I said I would have guided her exactly what to do and helped her do it.

Just my opinion tho and what works here for us.

Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

I realize, reading your comments, that you probably won't "get" her stress level until you come to the new blog.

However, there IS more to it, in that she just started "doing school" maybe six weeks ago. She has a home teacher from the school district. All the teacher has done has been give her open-ended assignments (without instruction) - and go over math with her. I don't think she has ever really had any assistance in learning how to do a term paper (even in the past - certainly not from this teacher). I did offer to help her do it, incrementally, but I think that failing at something is just not something she can handle right now.

In her spare time, she is making a little photo album....is making, as in she does it and it isn't perfect; she does it again - not perfect, and again and again. She is on her seventh time.....and this is something artistic that only SHE will judge.

I don't know what the answer is, but she is going to do on-line school next year, so the approval/disapproval of the teacher won't come into it.

Sarah said...

I personally need to work at forgiving and forgetting. I do hold a grudge and especially when it comes to trust. When they break my trust, it takes forever to get it back and I hold the past against them. :(

As for the paper, there will be consequences via the school right? I really struggle with how involved to get with school work and grades etc.

Can I come to the new blog?

Alysa said...

Amen to what Christie wrote! Especially the headphones part!!!!!

Annie said...

Christie and Alysa - YES! You are so right....I tried some NORMAL PARENTING there for a moment. Stupid!

And, I do need work on "Say what you mean, and mean what you say." But, honestly, her reaction TOTALLY threw me! She does NOT argue about school work! She's always been so self-directed and hard-working. The fact that she did balk should have alerted me immediately that something was seriously wrong.

And, we did talk both on our own, and with the therapist about sharing painful things before they make us blow up.

KT said...

I'm with Elena and the natural consequences -- if she doesn't do the paper, her consequence will be a bad grade. I don't see what there is to be gained by "forcing" her to write the paper (not that you could if you wanted to).

Having a giant screaming meltdown over said paper? Perhaps you could deal with it by whatever is the "usual" consequence.

The little photo album that she makes and remakes over and over again because it's not yet perfect? Her perogative.

PS My very best male friend was a child of trauma who had a spectacularly tough time (in school, at home, with the universe at large) and ended up in juvie for errr, junior year. Natural consequences. Scraped through high school, graduated a year late, half-heartedly went to college and something somehow clicked. He's now 38, an orthopedic surgeon and his med school personal statement (that I edited!! A million years ago!!) was about juvie & natural consequences. A couple of his profs on the admissions committee remembered him and his essay even years later.

Mike and Christie said...

Annie,
Don't be so hard on yourself. No it was not stupid~.....
It just didn't quite work for this one. :)

I have done some of the same things.
When a child is so volatile it is like walking a tightrope sometimes to keep things in balance. It will not always be that way....!!!!!

We have seen HUGE strides in Alli in the last 15 months. In fact today, I was able to correct her and she took that correction very well even saying "Yes maam."

But you have to get to that place FIRST and sometimes it takes longer, if you haven't parented the way you are now all along.

I honestly think these kids are going to grow up into awesomeness! :)

Molly said...

Papers are stressful, but there are a lot of ways to map out what needs to happen. Sounds like she needs to learn how to manage her time... It's a tough skill but if she gets a month by month calendar and can plot the end date and give herself mini deadlines, (pick topic, outline paper, first draft, etc) it will be a LOT less stressful. If you want help with that, let me know! (nobabynoblog at gmail dot com)

Mike and Christie said...

Also,
To give a child a huge assignment with no instruction is asking for gasoline on a smoldering fire.

My girls would not be able to do such a project had we not worked into it!

Can I recommend Sakes Grammar and Writing?
It is AWESOME and works slowly into a term paper. You can look at it on CBD.com

Christine said...

I agree with Tina. I would have insisted she do the paper. But that's me. Not saying that she would have but she would have consequences for the defiance.
The hard part is that the consequences often make me feel like I am the one being punished.

Mike and Christie said...

I have a question. If somebody is incapable of doing a paper without instruction...they have no idea how to do a paper, how could it be forced?

I would certainly have them do the paper too. But I would have to sit and work with them on what they were capable of.

In the instance where she said, "It ain't happening!" That would have been addressed when calm and brought back up during structured conversation. "When you said, 'It ain't happening!', that sounds disrespectful." "Did you want to be disrespectful? Or were you trying to tell me you couldn't do the paper?"
"There are many ways to tell me when you upset, and this is not one of them." Then go over other ways for her to express the same thing. "Mom, I can't do it." "Mom I need help, I don't know how." "Mom, I don't know where to start."
And if need be, scale it to her ability. You cannot punish an orange that is dry for not giving fruit juice.
You cannot punish a banana that is green for not being sweet. They are unable.
If she is UNABLE that is way different than defiant.
YET, defiantly speaking is how she answered, because the real problem is that she doesn't yet have the skills to explain herself and articulate her feelings in a calm manner.
It will come, but isn't there yet.

I remember giving Alli an assignment to write paragraphs, as I was told she was in 4th grade where she had been and was a straight A student. Umm... yea.

Her initial reaction was to defiantly climb up a tree and say NO! I won't do it!
I could have looked at the behavior only, punished her and expected the impossible, and we may have stayed in that mode forever.
OR, I can look and see, what is behind what she did. That is what I chose to do.
Not only could she not write a paragraph; she couldn't write a sentence. Did we deal with the over reaction and "defiant" behavior. Yes. Of course. But at the same time, compassion and understanding to meet her at her needs is necessary, and giving her tools to express herself.
Learning how to speak respectfully for a very fearful child is HUGE.

At this point.... (knock on wood)
LOL I think we are mostly there.
It has been 15 months and 2x's yesterday we had to correct something she had done or said, and both times, she lovingly said, "Yes Maam and Yes Sir.." WHOOOT!

janencleogowest said...

Oh, how I dislike the 'punishment and/or reward'-parenting style! I was brought up like that, and the only thing it thaught me was to be more sneeky than I already was (not being caught = no punishment) That pyschology (the Pavlov dog who wants food and/or fears an electric shock) is outdated. Children won't always behave in an expected pattern, and certainly children of trauma won't. And I don't think "Everyone is expected to perform in our society. Period." is a good reason for pushing a child beyond his/her (stress)limits. 'Everyone is expected to...' can be followed by lots of not so healthy 'our society's rules'. Brrr. Poor Anastasia for being so overwhelmed. And bless your heart for never holding a grudge. (When has 'holding a grudge' ever done anyone any good?) We're total opposites in that area! Prayers for wisdom and patience from Belgium

Brooke said...

I have a 16 year old cousin who has been staying with us off and on for almost three years. She is filled with stress. She often gets disregulated and overwhelmed when faced with school assignments. She was taking an online 1-semester English class this year, and needed many extentions to finish it. I am able to sit with her, calm her down, help her break down what she needs to do for that day--looking ahead at what she needs to do tomorrow is too overwhelming. She doesn't respond well when her mom tries to help her.

Do you have anyone who could help your daughter?
Have you looked into the Classical Conversations homeschool/tutoring program? My cousin is coming to live with us this school year so she can attend there. There isn't a program available in her home state. I know there is one by Lansing. We live in Grand Rapids.

You can check out my blog if you want to. I have three biological kids and two adopted. (One has FAS, the other has RAD). Plus my 16 year old cousin. I also have a 16 year old nephew who is planning to live with us this school year because there is no Classical Conversations group in the U.P.