The last I posted, we were just getting into the Christmas season and now we are done with New Years. My bad, I’m a lazy blogger. I will admit we had some struggles over the last month that threw Husbando and I for a loop and we have finally had some not-so-wonderful situations to deal with. Today we will be talking about how we had to learn quick how to use 11-year-old, DHS-approved, effective discipline for our son. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say effective because we don’t know how effective it will be long term until its actually been long term. We didn’t get it all right but we did the best we could. For the sake of transparency and helping others, here is our story.
Agent K, our oldest and seemingly most mature kiddo, decided to stop turning in his homework assignments and also get into some trouble at school/daycare enough that we had to make some pretty hard decisions. He was suspended from school in-house style twice this semester and from daycare right before Christmas. He was throwing a pen back and forth at a kid and had he not had two ‘strikes’ from earlier in the year, we wouldn’t be having this convo but let me get back to the point. Not having a ‘backup’ daycare plan, Husbando had to pick him up the last day of the semester before break and the first two days after he went back. I personally feel like suspending them from daycare is idiotic since it only punishes the parent but don’t even get me started on the ridiculousness that is his after-school program.
One thing we eventually learned with our son is that the typical consequences were not going to work. He did not respond to taking away tv time, electronics, his basketball games, desserts, nothing. I think that has to do with feeling like he had nothing of his own for a very long time. He had few possessions and also learned to live with disappointment in others. He probably often felt like there was nothing left for him to care about once his family was gone. I think there is a defense mechanism in his heart that shuts him off from feeling the pain of ‘normal’ consequences. If told he couldn’t go somewhere and instead had to stay in his room, he would just go quietly read and never seem disappointed in not going. Same with ice cream outings, family movie night and event an OU basketball game. Missing that game hurt Husbando more than anyone because Husbando has urned to take a son to sporting events since he was a kid himself. As some of his favorite memories in his childhood, he wants to give that to Agent K too.
On the other hand, we didn’t want to cause any more stress on him during what is already a very difficult time for him. We wanted to continue to bond and grow as a family during our favorite time of year, not lock him up in his room even if he didn’t seem to mind. He has been very honest about Christmas being his hardest time and he is reminded each year that the last day of school before winter break is when he was separated from his parents and never lived with them again. That Christmas was the worst time in his life and now every Christmas forever he will deal with those emotions. I can’t imagine what it was like but picking fights and failing all your classes can’t be the answer.
With all the trouble and missing assignments (that btw, he did but didn’t turn in… WHO DOES THAT?!), led to horrible grades and they pulled him out of all his Honors/AP classes. They then told us they were also pulling him out of gym to put him in a new class called Carrera. It was initially designed to prevent teen pregnancy but also helps kids who are having trouble in other ways. A teacher has to nominate you and if approved, you’re in for at least 3 years. It takes the place of an elective but they do make sure to add physical activity to the curriculum. Yesterday they learned about the female reproductive organs (boy was that a hysterical drive home) and today they are swimming. I know there is a group therapy session in there every week so that alone should maybe start to help.
For the actual holiday, we took away his big Santa gift, a 32″ flatscreen for his room, and he has no idea we ever bought it for him. The family got a Wii U and the original Wii was going to accompany that tv so he could play games in his room when/if friends ever came over. We still gave him his gifts but under the understanding that he would have to earn back the right to use, play, or eat them. He got a ton of jerky (one form of currency that actually works) and only on days he gets a great report from all his teachers does he get to have a piece. So far this first week back he has had a good report each day. He got several very nice gifts from his grandparents including a dehydrator and an iPod. Neither will be opened until he has earned that right. His sisters got to open and play with their iPods on our four-hour road trip home and that seemed to bother him a little. Because our kids are so loving and have been taught compassion, I actually had to keep the girls from sharing their iPods with him. That was a hard one even for me.
The break and this week went well but on Wednesday night I actually heard him jokingly say ‘man, I’m so tired because being good all day is exhausting!’ I almost cried at my disappointment. Getting through one day without being in trouble is a struggle?! He actually thinks that way or he wouldn’t have joked about it so the long-term success of this is up in the air. Eleven-year-olds don’t like to work at things, I’m not stupid. If he gets tired of being ‘exhausted’ from being good, he just won’t be good. At that point we will have to re-evaluate and reset.
Some of this is just being 11 and some is figuring out life with us. Some is missing foster dad, some is missing bio parents. I’m guessing there is also some sibling rivalry, tweenage hormones and a little bit of testing boundaries in there too. We are doing our best to sift through all that and decide how to help him. This is a marathon, not a sprint so I’m sure I’ll have some updates in the future.