Friday, April 26, 2013

Help This Reader Out

Most of you know I went through a really tough time with the boys before there was Internet or any support really. And I know I could have dealt with it better if there had been just one person who had understood. So let's help out this mom who left me a comment:

I am seeking some advice and wondering if you might have some to offer. I am struggling with our 8,almost 9 year old daughter stealing and lying to cover herself of course and not get into trouble. She has been doing this type thing since about 3 years old. She was adopted internationally at 2 yo and is the 6th of our 8 kids. Yesterday she was caught by another child stealing candy out of the teachers desk. A couple weeks before she stole candy from the outside fridge that was her brothers, talking her 5 yo brother into being a part of the stealing then left him hanging, blaming him. You wrote recently of Kaleb stealing. Why do you think children steal? Why do they steal food? In my daughter's case it is always treat type food. And how are you able to keep positive feelings for your children during these times? I also struggle for knowing what is a meaningful/helpful punishment for each situation. Nothing seems to help. I appreciate your reading this and any help you can offer. 

I can only give my perspective which is that I took the boy's stealing really, really personally. And it felt that way. I couldn't set something down without them planning how to get it. Just because they had to have it. I was angry a lot. 

With the twins it's not so premeditated, more of impulsive. And sometimes downright greed. They may have the same treat as the others but gobble their right down and then take another one that belong to someone who is saving it for later. One of my boys had much more serious attachment issues and I think stealing was just one way it came out. I really don't know what I would do if I were doing it over. For a while there was no joy in our house at all. The other basically outgrew it. Not that every choice is the best, but that he has a pretty good set of values and he's been able to overcome the past junk behaviors enough to take part in normal activities and hang out with friends.

Sometimes I just have to step back and look at it overall. They made a poor choice. The broke my trust and the trust of a sibling or in some cases a teacher. If they can't repay what they took, they do that persons' jobs for a week or so. And they can't be trusted to do any activities that aren't supervised by myself, Rick or one of the older kids.

I think we all want our children to make the right choice because it is the right choice, not because someone is watching. I've talked with Kayla about that a lot this week. She is an amazing child (and if you don't feel it, fake it : ) inside her and when she does the junk behavior--running out and stealing just because she can--she's keeping that person buried. 

The thing I really watch for is that not every activity has to be earned. And that I include them even if I'm not feeling the love right at the time. And if anyone leaves a comment saying they feel complete love and acceptance toward their child even in the midst of the junk behavior, we'll watch for them to walk on water.

So, that's my thoughts. The rest of you chime in because I know there are at least ten readers who are going through this or similar issues right now.

And be sure to go to the last post for a cuteness fix.


One Crowded House said...

I include other adults (not friends or family) in the situation. One of our sons stole a tiny little plastic toy from a couch cushion of an acquaintance. It was something they didn't even know was there. As my husband was driving our son back to return the item I called ahead to the people's house so they wouldn't say "no big deal" or "that's ok" because it was not ok, so I asked that they look and act disappointed and frustrated. They did, and as far as I know, that child hasn't taken anything else. I have also driven to the police station! The truth came out in the parking lot, but I have no problem airing these problems to an officer now if it will help get my kids on the right track now before they are teens and spending time in juvenile detention!

As far as food goes. We take inventory a lot. I say what I know and where it's at in our kitchen. All food and candy, no matter whose it is, is in labeled bags in the kitchen (it's too easy for kids to sneak into siblings rooms and take things). I spend most of my time at or near the kitchen so I can monitor things.

I talk to our kids school counselors and teachers about all of the problems we struggle with at home. They might not see the same behaviors, but I want them to be on the lookout and not be gullible.

I joke with my mom that I am Jimminy Cricket from Pinnochio. Until my kids have a conscious that tells them STOP. Do not make that choice. I have to be that for them. Over and over and over.

As far as discipline goes. We use the system "positive parenting with a plan" by Matthew A. Johnson. This was recommended by our therapist and we have used it for a couple of years now. I bought the book off of amazon and put together the token system on my own (instead of buying the set that is pricey). I too have 8 kids. With this system the rules are clearly written out. Every person in the family has a rule book. It's all about choices and takes the responsibility off of the parents. The consequences are also written out. So for instance if a child chooses to lie- they are choosing to do 20 "good habit cards". These can be anything ranging from learn a bible verse, to clean the toilets, to 20 jumping jacks, to a few grace cards that are thrown in, because we talk about what grace is as well.

I had to tweak the rules just a little for the special fears of adopted kids, that I did not want to make worse. But other than that we have stuck with the system, and I have added or taken away rules as necessary.

Kathy C. said...

Those are good ideas. Especially having the other family be disappointed. When J & A were little we took them to return stolen candy bars from the store and they were told, "That's okay. You just keep that." That did not go over with us. I asked them how they would feel when these boys were 13 and stealing candy from them because they been told as preschoolers that it was okay.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kathy and One Crowded House for your advice and sharing your ideas. I am going to look for the positive parenting with a plan book. Our daughter seems to sabotage herself, kind of like what you mention with Kaleb. Just a few days before she was caught stealing the candy from the teacher's desk, the teacher told her she was going to call me to tell me how well she was doing (she did) and then the next day treated her to icecream at school for the good behavior all week. For whatever reason the 'good' can never continue for very long. We do some of the same things with never keeping food/candy anywhere but the kitchen and have it marked and I am almost always in view of the kitchen/living area where the kids are. Sometimes I think she does the misbehaviors at school because the opportunities to steal or get into trouble are more limited at home. Mostly, I admire how you keep a positive attitude and don't let the behavior of some ruin things for the whole family as I am guilty of at times.You are a great mom. I really learn a lot from reading how you handle different situations with your kids. Thanks again, Melissa

Kathy C. said...

The first time around I did HORRIBLE at letting it upset our house because I took it personally and was always angry.

Eventually I got where I could distance myself from it and realize that it really was personal at times, but that I needed to not let them control my moods.

With Adam I started letting him be in sports with the rule that if he got in trouble at school (I got a call or a detention slip--which he was good at hiding) he would do nothing but come straight home that day. It didn't matter if it was game day, practice day etc. If he hid it and I found out later, it would mean extra days of coming straight home.

Sometimes it is hard to find a balance. And it's easy to let moods take over. That's why I have a chart for the littles that tracks school and home behavior so I can see how their week is overall apart from my moods or feelings toward the immediate situation.

Mama Ds Dozen said...

It is sooo... important for those of us with large families to not allow the negative behavior of one child pull the rest of us down. While our adopted children may have "special needs", every one of our children have needs.

The biggest thing is to not take their behavior personally. They are acting out for so many reasons, and even if they tell mom "It's your fault because _____", it is not your fault. :)

One of our daughters is now in a Residential Care Facility, but last spring she could RAGE several times per week for a couple hours at a time. Most of the time, I could physically restrain her on the living room floor (with her yelling, screaming, hitting, kicking) . . . while I carried on completely normal conversations with the other kids. I was honestly able to use every ounce of my physical strength to restrain, while not allowing her to manipulate my emotions, nor to ruin the day for the other children. I could direct them in their homeschooling, or chores, etc . . . while restraining our "rager" in order to keep her and the other children safe.

Of course, this made her even angrier, since she so wanted to control my every minute and every emotion. But, I did't allow myself to "go there".

It's not easy . . . but it is imperative for us to seek the Lord for His strength to act in His ways . . . and not to react in our "natural" more emotional ways. Allow HIm to change US (and not just the child); and ask Him to give us wisdom.

Mama Ds Dozen said...

Oh . . . if you want to read a story of HOPE, I posted a couple of days ago about some serious work the Lord is doing in our precious daughter's heart.

Read my "Once Upon a Time . . ." post.

:) :) :)

Kathy C. said...

Thank you for sharing your story.