My wife and I are going into our third month of being houseparents for teenage girls. The girls that we have range from ages 14-18 and can be quite difficult. Here where we are we use a level system to hold them accountable for their actions. To give you an example level one girls are not allowed to have any of their own belongings and are required to wear uniforms on all outings, as well as many other consequences. Whereas the other levels (2-4) are allowed certain privileges. Our level ones have recently started to revolt and not care what level they and have no motivation to move up to the next level, and they feel like they can do what they want when they want to. I need some ideas or consequences in dealing with them. Anyone have any interesting things that work.
We use a similar level system it seems, but our level 1 does not seem to be quite a strict and we don’t have uniforms. This is coming from someone who doesn’t work where you are and I don’t know how much you can change things in your own home and what you have to run by your director and get approval for. I sounds as though level 1 seems very suffocating. My director (and I agree with him) feels that a kid has to have a light at the end of the tunnel. I understand that at level 2 you get privileges, but to a teenager (especially if they have ADD/ADHD) it’s hard to see how to get there. If you have no instant rewards for good behavior and they have to wait a week or 2 before moving up to the nest level, then is it really worth it to them? One thing I have learned is that even though they may still be on level 1, if they do something very well, then they need to be rewarded for that. For example, one of my boys got bumped down to level one a few weeks ago, and had no TV, computer, iPod, stereo, etc. However, one day, he had done very well at school and come home and did his homework and I let him play a game on the computer for 10 minutes. It was only 10 minutes, but it wet his tongue and made him want more. Therefore, the next day he worked even harder. However, if he were to slack off just a little, NO WAY.
I’m not in your home, so I don’t know what all is going on, but if a kid feels as though they can’t do anything right or even if they do they don’t get anything for it, then why do the right thing, you know? After all, it is kinda funny to see the hp get upset and frustrated – and I already have nothing, so what’s the big deal.
I would attempt to begin giving a little back and really rewarding the good behaviors (stay up 10 min later than the rest of the girls that night, 5 min of TV, change out of uniform for the night, etc.)
These are just suggestions, but again, I don’t know your campus, director, or how exactly things are done there. I may be way out in left field for you, but it sounds like they need to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I totally agree with Seamus. It sounds like the girls need to get a little of something to keep them motivated and moving forward.
Hopefully your program and facility is flexible enough to find something that they are interested in achieving in the short term. As crazy as it sounds, some kids could care less about achieving a facilities’ pre-set goals. Especially if the kid never had any say in what it is they would like to achieve.
Personally I would be motivated to get to the next level to get all my stuff back, but for some kids they have a hard time actually seeing themselves achieving a goal beyond the end of the day, let alone next week. It can lead, for some, to a feeling of hopelessness. I think finding out what each individual girl would like to be rewarded with and setting short term goals for them to achieve may work.
I just want to say thanks for the information. We know why we are here and it is not to punish the girls, and sometimes you get caught up in do this. I am glad for the info and that fact that I have never thought about why they didn’t care but it makes sense seeing as how most of our girls do have add adhd. I will surely take this and run with it, as much as I can. We are in a really good program and they allow us to make a lot of the decisions about rules( of course we do have a set book of guidelines). Thanks again for the feedback.
“The Safest Place is in the Center of God’s Will”
Sometimes we have to do something to give the kids hope. If they dig themselves a hole it can be hard to get out of. We have to let them smell a little bit of success from time to time. We have to dangle the carrot in front of them sometimes so they want to go for it. Who knows when it will be the time that they turn their life around and continue to want to be on a higher level.
If you have one or some who are misbehaving find out what they like to do. When they are not on level have the others do what they like to do and do not allow them to participate. This might mean that one of the houseparents stay back. For example we had a girl who really liked this part and to go down trails we made sure that when she was not on level that we went to the park. Another idea is movies. You can have show a movie like on the weekend and have the ones who are not on level to set in another room etc.
I had two young men that did not ‘care’ about rising up thru the ranks. Life’s experiences for them had convinced them that it did no good to advance, because someone or something would always beat them back down. Nothing seemed to motivate them…UNTIL… we discovered their passion. Sometimes it is hard to see a child’s passion when they are conditioned to express nothing, but we were blessed. When we went the extra mile to provide an outlet for their passion (for one it was individual guitar lessons with a really good instructor), we found these two young men responding to us with real emotion (mostly positive). HOWEVER, we could not use these lessons as reward or consequences… that would have just shut the boys down again. For the one child – the lessons cost money, we worked with others to give him opportunities to earn his lessons. We had to use opportunities not connected to our house or regular chores, he worked for other people on the facility grounds. We kept the requirements very low, so that the boys could not fail. Within one month, the boys began to do better in school and at home, and we were able to build some relationship bonds that were healthy…it felt like a miracle.
You just can’t keep giving negative consequences to these kids. Are you changing or modifying the behavior just giving out consequences. If one of your Natural children was in trouble you could give very harsh and long consequences and it would change their behavior. With the children we care for we can’t keep piling it on. They have to have hope. If we take privileges away they usually can earn some back. These kids have been through so much, it makes me laugh when I hear someone say they are going to break them. Most of my guys have been beaten, some with lamp cords and who know what else. Yet we think we can break them by taking stuff from them. Some people are motivated by the positive and some by the negative, you have to know what will work for each child. We use a chip system, some will cry if we take a chip some do no care, yet will respond when they earn chips. We made a modified family teaching model with the chips. Family teaching is 4 to 1 ratio positive to negative we used Family teaching in a DJJ home with teens most gang members, I thought it worked well and they teach don’t pile it on, give them a chance to earn something back. You also need the teaching part, they need to be taught correct behavior and rewarded when the do it.
Our Rad daughter was giving us problems we used love and logic all she had was a mattress on the floor. She said you did everything you can do I’m still going to do what I want. F YOU and walked out the door and we did not see her for weeks. That taught me that you need not only consequence but give positive reinforcement and bait them back.
Every person I have ever known to live by the break-em philosophy is now doing something else for a living. Though the so called breaking of a child may work for the very few, it won’t work for the vast majority of children in placement. They have already been broken by their situation and have learned ways to cope and deal with it. They have to be taught that adults can be dependable, caring and respectful, that not every situation is bad.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is a very hard thing to do. It’s hard to be caring a respectful when you are being cussed at, yelled at, spit on, or disrespected, but it has to be done. Our daughter that we raised in placement and that chose us as her parents, put us through test after test after test to see if we would stick around and continue to care. We did and now she calls us mom and dad. But even if she had never decided to make us her parents, but only learned to be a productive member of society and how to treat others, it is worth it.
The other problem with the break them philosophy (control) is it is usually external and only works while when the kids are in the “break them” environment. It is a combination biblically of truth & grace. How does God deal with us? He tells us what or how we should do things, tells us the consequence of both obedience & disobedience, allows us to make a choice & experience the consequence of our choices. What I love is his blessings, mercy, & grace far outweigh the penalties. Also he is always there with open arms, willing to forgive & give us the support & love we need to get back on track.
We need negative consequences when raising our children but they should not be the focus. We should go out of our way to give grace, build relationships, find hot buttons (blessings) and have open arms. I don’t know about everyone else but I need Jesus because as the webmaster said it is hard when time and time again you are being disrespected, disobeyed and everything else. Thank you heavenly Father for your example on how to be a house parent.