Monday, March 4, 2013

Back to Basics

So.  If you're a fairly regular follower of this blog (or if you go back and read the last few posts), you'll see that M1, Oz and I are in the midst of (yet another) rough patch.  These happen periodically, but as he gets older, the battles seem to be raging more heavily and the trenches are getting dug in rather deeply.  Those of you whose children are teens already can sympathize, I'm sure.

The problem boils down to precisely this:  M1 wants to be treated like an adult.  He is 10 and feels that he is old enough for certain 'rights.'  However, he won't accept the responsibilities that come along with the rights, and he acts like a spoiled toddler when asked to toe the line.  He hasn't yet worked out that to get the 'rights' that he wants, he also has to behave in a way that makes us - Oz and I - think that he's able to handle them responsibly.

Some of this revolves around the fact that he is a 10-year-old boy.  Some of it also revolves around the fact that his psychological issues that cause him to firmly believe that he is a pearl and the world is the oyster.  I'm doing my darnedest to snap him out of that way of thinking, but I read a book about a year ago that strongly suggests that there is no easy way to accomplish that goal because I could dig out of Alcatraz with a spoon more quickly than I'll be able to reach the depths of M1's brain.  And flogging him with a wet noodle only makes him giggle. 

Still, things couldn't continue the way they did last week... or even over the weekend for that matter.  (On Sunday morning M1 woke me up at 2:14 a.m. trying to steal remotes out of my bedroom [again] and shortly before several of my girlfriends came over at 2 p.m., he and his sister were playing at the top of the stairs [which we've asked/told them repeatedly NOT to do] and she came tumbling down the stairs with a beanbag.  Because he pushed her.  Thankfully, she's fine.  Beanbags are good like that.  But it did mean that instead of having an outing with Oz like they normally get to do when I have friends over, they were sent to their rooms instead.) So we're going back to basics.  Obviously there are many therapy methods out there.  We visited a therapist and tried cognitive behavior therapy when M1 was small, and the results were laughable.  His hyperactivity and impulsivity are such that there's no way he can think before doing anything, let alone plan actions before doing them.  Plus, that's more or less what I've been attempting to get him to use for the last... ohhhhh, year or so... and clearly we've gotten nowhere.

Time to try a new tactic.

I have decided that since M1 is so bound and determined to act like a toddler every time we ask him to take responsibility for his actions, he needs to be treated like one.  What motivates toddlers?  Sticker charts and incentives.  I'm calling it applied behavioral analysis, but really it's a sticker chart with incentives.

First I had M1 make a list of his top 12 privileges.  This included everything from swim team to summer camp to electronics.  I had him prioritize them.  Then Oz printed off a chart that I hung on the wall.  There are columns for each day of the week as well as a "Total" column and a space at the beginning where I've written all 12 of M1's desired privileges, one per week.  Each day has space for three small stickers that M1 can earn - up to 21 a week, though for this first week we're shooting for 14 and the maximum I'm expecting is 19.  Nobody's perfect, and I don't expect him to be.

To earn his three daily stickers, he has to do three things - one for each sticker:
1.  Stay in his room at night.  Obviously he's allowed to get up and use the toilet if he needs to - I'm not unreasonable - but there's no need for him to be downstairs (he has small paper cups in his vanity if he wants a drink) or in the game room in the middle of the night.  Nothing good can come of that.
2.  Respect other people.  He's had real issues lately respecting other people's space lately, particularly his sister.  This one also applies to lying.  If he doesn't want me to lie to him, he shouldn't lie to me, right??  This one largely revolves around remembering the Golden Rule.
3.  Respect property.  Don't break things.  Don't dismantle things.  Don't walk along all the walls deliberately trying to break the doorstops with your foot.  Things like that.

That's it.  I may need to get more specific, but we'll see.  I'm starting broad.  I can always modify and specify as we go.  Each week, if he reaches his goal, he'll get one of his privileges back.  If he doesn't reach it, we stay at the current level and try again the next week.  At best, this program will take 12 weeks to implement, which I'm hopeful will be long enough to make some of these things into habit.  I do hate that this means we'll be skipping swim for at least two weeks (his #1-priority privilege was going to our homeschool group; #2 and #3 were swim team practice and stroke development class, respectively), but if that's what it takes...

Wish me luck.  It's been a while since we've done this sort of intensive work around here, but I think it's long overdue.  Fingers crossed that it works, because if it doesn't, I'm all out of ideas!


farmwifetwo said...

OK, I'm going to tell you right now.. you've set him up for failure with the "respect other people" rule.

Why you ask?? B/c I've been there, done that and am still battling.

Why you ask again?? B/c to him that's not a task and it's just that simple.

Start with something simple. He cannot touch anyone without permission and you have to see him screw up. His sister cannot rat him out.... Yet.

It needs to be set up as a token plus IEP. They've been doing this with Greg since Gr 1 and every 3mths we move just a tad bit forward. Now for the last year, he's been jumping quickly but that's because he knows the basics... ie. don't touch anyone.

You know where to find me.

Sarah said...

We'll see how it goes. Like I said, I'm not scared to modify the program if it's obviously not working. I talked to him today about what he thought it meant, and he said, "Don't shove my sister down the stairs." So his interpretation is obviously a little broader than most 10yo's will be, and that's fine. He's getting the spirit, and that's all I can ask for at this point. Nothing nuanced. Like you said, the finer points come later. And again, I don't expect perfection. Just slow improvement.