Children Acting Out During Relief

We got back from relief on Tuesday to find that a couple of the children were somewhat disruptive and did things or tried to do things that they normally wouldn’t do with us or our regular relief staff.  We went on relief a week early so that we could be on duty for the first day of school (our twins started kindergarten today), so we had substitute relief staff cover the cottage for us. 

My wife was somewhat offended that the children would try to get over on the relief staff and do things they knew were not acceptable and would never think to do if we were on duty.  I on the other hand was not nearly as offended, though I think we gave appropriate consequences for their behavior.  The difference in our responses has a lot to do with the kind of children we were and in turn the kind of adults we became.

She was a very compliant child, the hero in her family.  If there was a rule she, for the most part, followed it no questions asked.  She still does, and has a hard time understanding why everyone just doesn’t follow the rules!

I on the otherhand preferred to push boundaries, and did many of the very same things our children do.  In the religion I was raised in, we were not allowed to shop at all on Sunday, it was considered a violation of the sabbath.  However, I remember a time when I was about 10 or 11 that my parents had to do something on a Sunday and left us with a babysitter.  Knowing exactly what the rules were, I chose to convince the babysitter that it was OK for me and a friend to go to the store and buy a large can of Ravioli to eat for supper instead of what my parents had left, with money I had previously stolen from my parents. 

My parents happened to return before we were able to finish the Ravioli and get rid of the evidence; I was totally busted.  I can’t remember what the consequence was, but I am sure they were severe.  Thinking back on the situation I am certain it wasn’t something I was trying to do to get back at or aggravate my parents with.  It was just something I thought I could get away with, so I tried.  I have grown into an adult that does a much better job staying within the boundaries so it couldn’t have been becasue I was a bad person.  Knowing that, I actually find the situation with our children somewhat humorous and someday my wife will also.

My advice is this:

We all know that relief, days off, or whatever you call it is a disruption for the children.  They have to deal with different staff, possibly a different location, and usually different rules.  And if not different rules, a different interpretation of those rules. They will act differently with relief staff, and may act badly.  Accept it because it is going to happen.  Especially if the staff covering your time off is different from the staff that normally cover for you or are new.  The things our children did while we were gone, were things they never would have tried with our normal relief staff.

Give appropriate consequences for their behavior.  If they act negatively give them negative consequences so they know that behavior is not acceptable.  However, you could also give positive consequences to those children that didn’t misbehave while you were on relief.  Unless your facility says otherwise, you could have a later bedtime, a special movie, or something else for the children that didn’t act out while you were gone, to show that  positive behavior is rewarded. 

Don’t take it personal.  In the vast majority of incidents I have dealt with, the children were just trying to get away with something, they weren’t trying to purposely aggravate me.

p.s. My wife wasn’t that aggravated or offended and she has gotten much better over the years, infact she was even able to accept that turning in her paperwork a few hours late this week because of computer issues wasn’t going to bring an end to the world.

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