In the tenth of our series, we present the secret thoughts of an adoptive mom of three kids. The behaviourist, Roz, who has come in to help the struggling family is teaching Mom how actions speak louder than words.
Roz has been observing the kids for a while now and although she still hasn't come up with a magical word to make it all better, I think we're making progress.
For the past two weeks I've been tracking all of Lynn's behaviours. Every time something happens, I record it on a spreadsheet I keep on a clipboard that has become permanently attached to me. I track what the behaviour is, why I think she's doing it, and what I think her motivation is. Roz is looking for patterns in the type of behaviour at certain times of the day or any other common factors. We met yesterday and both agreed that there are no consistencies or patterns of behaviour. In some sort of weird way, that is helpful.
Where do we go form here? Apparently it's all uphill. As Roz made very clear, it will get worse before it gets better. As I change my behaviour in order to change Lynn's responses, she will probably "up the ante" to test me. (That dramatic heavy sigh you hear is from me.)
The first project for us is to define a few simple rules for everyone in the family. Our are:
- Hands and feet to yourself.
- Ask for help.
- Clean up when done.
We now have a chart on the kitchen wall with those rules and pictures of each rule. Many times during the day I will remind/ask the kids, "What are the rules?" When someone doesn't follow the rules, we go over to the chart and point to and read each one. The challenge now is to have Lynn not only know what the rules are, but to follow them.
We're also working on re-wording everything we say in a positive manner. Instead of "Stop jumping on the couch," I say, "Keep your feet on the floor." I tell them once and if they don't stop the behaviour, I physically remove them from the couch as many times as necessary without saying anything. I cannot believe how many times I've had to do that.
It is really difficult for me to shut my mouth and not nag the kids. I have to admit I'm calmer when I don't talk, and as Roz has said, "Actions speak louder than words." (Note to self: buy duck tape to cover my mouth.)
Remember the warning: It will get worse before it gets better? She wasn't kidding! It may sound crazy, but I'm sure Lynn is deliberately defying me to see if I'll snap back to the screaming maniac I was. I've come close a few times, but so far I've used my calm, grown-up voice, or no talking at all. Believe it or not, I actually feel like I'm making some progress.
No one ever said parenting a child with special needs would be easy, but I didn't expect it to be this hard. Perhaps I just wasn't listening.