Every Saturday we clean the house and then head out for some kind of activity that is meant to motivate the kids to earn a fun day out with their behavior. This week it was to be a trip to the park followed by ice cream at Sonic and finally a trip to Wal-Mart to blow all of their allowance. All of the kids were looking forward to Saturday. A little house cleaning followed by fun, fun, fun. Instead, here is how our day of fun went down….
At 6:30 in the morning our two six year olds decided it would be a great idea to wake up our three twelve year olds by putting on a floor gymnastic routine in the hallway. At some point, I’m not really sure when, a hockey stick was introduced into the mix. I ran upstairs just in time to see a kid holding his head while screaming about how the other kid was supposed to only hit the tennis ball off his head (William Tell style), not in the ear.
After we resolved that issue, I thought it would be time for a nice breakfast to help everyone calm down and get the day back on track. My wife spent an hour cooking eggs, sausage and pancakes. While I thought it was a great breakfast, the boys complained about not getting to eat cereal. I figured this day was going downhill, fast.
We went on to do chores. I took the two six year olds upstairs to clean the bathroom. I was showing Steve how to spray the cleaner in the toilet bowl while Jake was standing beside us watching. I handed the bottle to Steve to spray in the toilet bowl just as I had done. As soon as I handed the bottle to Steve he turned around and sprayed the cleaner in Jakes eyes. At this point Steve had officially ended any chance of breathing air outside of the house for the day. I got Jakes eyes flushed out with water and then called my supervisor to try and figure out an appropriate consequence.
The great thing about having a supervisor to call when I need to is that they are outside of the immediate situation and are able to give sane and reasonable advice, especially when I am about to lose my mind. His advice of having Steve do a time out, an apology and loss of privileges for the day was better than my idea of shipping Steve to a orphanage in Yugoslavia.
The other boys decided instead of cleaning their rooms and going out for a fun day, they would rather move all of their bedroom furniture around and redecorate. That was followed by me trying to explain why they were not allowed to turn the closet into a bed, hang their sheets as curtains, make the mattress a load-bearing wall, use the trash can as a place to store all their socks and underwear and why we prefer a vacum cleaner on the carpet instead of a mop.
It seems that when there is something planned, especially something big, the kids tend to get more anxious and look for ways to sabotage any chance they have of being able to participate. I have come to a point where I believe the kids do want to take part in much anticipated events, they just believe they are not worthy of it or are not going to be going anyway. They expect themselves to fall short and fail.
The only way I have seen kids overcome any kind of self destructive behavior is letting them know that someone believes in them, which is very hard for someone that has come to view all adults as liars and frauds. Praise has to be constant, especially for a kid that has received very little in the past. Think about it this way, If your boss constantly expected you to screw up and never gave any notice to the things you did right, what would your attitude be? If you came from from a family that had little or no expectations for you, how much more difficult would your life had been? It’s a slow process. The praise has to keep coming and it takes a long time for most kids to start changing pessimistic thought and behavior patterns. If any of your kids are diagnosed with Attachment Disorders than the process is ten times tougher.
Learning to trust and open your heart to someone else after being devastated from prior relationships that were not healthy, is difficult for adults. For kids it’s just as bad, if not worse. We all deal, everyday, with the drama associated with a kid that has suffered broken relationships with family. Those behaviors tend to come out strong on days like a Saturday in the park, a trip to the mall, going on family vacations or anything else that involves “Family” time.
Someday I’ll have a Saturday that will be stress free. I’ll probably be retired and fishing off a dock somewhere, but it will happen. Till then I guess we will be fighting the good fight. -Launch