I often think about the fact that I am 3 different kinds of moms one for each of my 3 boys. For Jacob, I am quickest to laugh, and to joke and I think he and I share the same kind of humor. For David, we can cuddle and read and enjoy quiet together. For Matthew, I think of my job as being the person who is prepping him for life.
I know that when I look back on his childhood, I will say that there are things I would of course change, but that my consistency with him, and the fact that I held him to a high standard is something I feel pretty confident about.
I once read that for children with challenging behavior you have to be consistent 100 percent of the time. They use the inconsistency as an opportunity to "get ahead" and to see what they can get away with. For Matthew, I am never certain how much he comprehends, but he does seem to thrive on the loopholes of life.
For example, his behavior at school has been pretty horrendous and he had a horrible day the other day at Hebrew School. Given this, the senior counselor at Healy House and I decided that life at Healy house would become a little stricter for Matthew. He would have to earn privleges such as off campus activities. For Thursday he knew he would be staying inside healy house and would not be going on field trips or to the gym. Well apparently one of the other clients got upset and so Matthew was taken outside for about 10 minutes while they calmed the other child down. Of course, when Matthew called me at night, the first thing he told me was the he "got to go outside". I had already heard the story, so I knew why he had been outside, but his "bragging" about getting to go outside leads me to believe that on some level, he looks for the loopholes.
Tonight we went to see Matthew, and in the car Jacob asked if he could come home for dinner. I quickly said yes, and when we went inside I told Matthew that he was coming home for dinner. Matthew then asked about bringing a toy back to Healy House after he was home with us and I explained that our rule was that toys stay at home. He got upset and started to grumble and kick things. I tried to remind him that he could play with the toy at home, and I tried to get him focused on playing at home, but he continued to grumble and grouch. I then asked him to go take a few minutes in his room and we would decide after that if he could come home or not.
The head counselor and I then went back to talk to Matthew. I was firm that he was not going to bring a toy back and that he would have to see how his behavior was for a few more minutes before I would allow Matthew to come home for dinner. The head counselor, trying to make Healy House sound bad for Matthew, told him that if he stayed at Healy House he would be away from the kids and go to bed at 7, 2 hours earlier than the other kids.
Matthew was clear then that he wanted to come home but was still grumbly so I suggested we play a game and then head home if he was kind. The whole time we played, Matthew was grouchy and just unkind and it was clear to me that taking him home didn't make sense. As we were getting ready to play again, he made a grouchy comment and I decided that the other boys and I were leaving. We stood up to go and Matthew started screaming for me.
It was not at all easy to leave, but he has to know that I mean business and that the behavior issues have to be controlled by him to some degree before he comes home. I thought I could trust that the consequences as they were laid out for him would be followed through on. That was the reason to leave him at Healy House. They had spelled out the consequences, I had not asked them to. And there was enough staff to help follow through on the consequences for him.
After we left and drove home, I called to check on Matthew. I was shocked to find out that he was happily eating fruit loops. The staff member who had been tasked with helping him calm down had given him fruit loops once he was calm. I blew my stack.....what was he learning? How was this helping? Sure, it calmed him down. If I all wanted was a calm child, I would have said, " hey, in your crappy, rude mood Matthew, let's go get donuts and mcdonalds, and pizza". "You can abuse us and yell and threaten your brothers and I will buy you cake and cookies.". I don't play that way! I can't. it is too important that Matthew learns that behaviors have consequences.
I then asked to speak to the senior staff member, the one who had told Matthew he would be going to bed by 7, given his behavior for the evening, and I asked him if Matthew was going to bed. He said that he had to leave and Matthew would go to bed a little early. A little early wasn't the deal! A little early wasn't the consequence that was stated. A little early will not register with Matthew. A little early is Matthew not learning this all important lesson.
I had not asked the Healy House staff to give Matthew a consequence. My thought was that my leaving him was the consequence. However, since they gave him a consequence, they had to follow through. You want to see an angry mom? This mom doesn't play games with discipline! I can't. I am on a mission to get my son to understand cause and effect. School and I are on the same team. They are consistent and have great follow through. Given his behavior and his age, there are only so many more years that I have that I can teach Matthew what most children learn as toddlers and preschoolers.
What I thought was funny was that Jacob overheard me asking the guy why he had given Matthew Fruit Loops, before I went upstairs for the rest of the conversation. When I came downstairs, the first thing Jacob said was, "why did they give him fruit loops? You don't get fruit loops for being out of control." Jacob thought I was crazy when I picked him up for a hug with tears in my eyes, but it was nice to know that the lessons I am teaching and the standard I am setting are understandable to a 6 year old. It made me feel like I am making good parenting decisions. I figure if a 6 year old understands the insanity of the Fruit loops, I must be on target.
Now if only I could get the rest of the adults to understand my parenting the way that Jacob does, then we will have a chance in hell at Matthew learning the importance of actions and consequences for those actions.
- I am a single mom of three amazing boys! All three of my sons entered my family through adoption. All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!