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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: Parenting According To Emotional Age

(This was me and Sarah when she was 6.  I just love this picture )
Over several years, I have been asked on and off what BCLC looks like in our home. I have blogged about it, in several posts, but today I wanted to address emotional age, because I think it is PARAMOUNT in understanding BCLC.
(Beyond Consequences Logic and Control)
Many times I get questions about children who will not obey, are diagnosed RAD or have been diagnosed ODD, PDD, ADHD, PTSD, etc.  All those are labels given under an umbrella of behaviors that lead to diagnosis.  But none of them really offer underlying CAUSE or deal with what is BENEATH the behavior.  BCLC addresses CAUSES NOT symptoms.  If you can get to the ROOT of a behavior, you can "weed it out". If you just keep cutting the top, it will come back again and again.  I prefer to deal with ROOTS and though it is HARD, I bet it is what all parents WANT! They want to help their children HEAL.

I decided to address a few broad issues that have happened in our own home and how we have dealt with them. I don't think we have handled them perfectly, or that we are perfect parents, but we ARE parents who want to do our best before the Lord and represent HIM to our children.  So here goes: Hang on for the ride. :) 
 
If your child is 10 years old in body, yet 2 years old emotionally... how do you handle things like not staying at the table for dinner, or not cleaning his room?
You may need to have your child sit right by you at dinner and treat him/her much younger.  This is gonna sound weird, but a few times we actually fed one of our girls like a toddler.  If she didn't NEED it, she would have refused it. But she did.  We had one of our girls sit on our laps and fed her when she was about 7.  This seemed to help her stay calm. She had a lot of food issues when she was first home. The issue of not eating really stopped quickly.  Another way that helped during dinner was  giving her comfort foods from her country and allowing her to help prepare meals. 
Each of our girls helps in kitchen once a month for a week. This includes all kitchen duties, and the privilege of helping mom cook. :)  
In light of that, when Miss Alli came home, she was 11 years old.  However, she was really about 18 months emotionally. 
My expectations of her doing kitchen were greatly diminished. I had to teach her how, and guide her attitude so she didn't get overwhelmed.  Singing, playing games, pretending all helped her cope with the ultimate chore. We didn't REMOVE the chore, we just adjusted our expectations. 
Here is an example of how things were 10 months ago!
 With our Alli, my gentle assistance made her angry.  I assisted her anyway.  I remember an instance in filling the dishwasher where she was slamming dishes and I let her know that it was not ok to take her frustration out on the pretty dishes.  She did it again and again, and as she loaded them in , I took them out until she FINALLY realized, this was not going to end until the dishes were put in the dishwasher with a kind attitude. It took a couple of trips to the rocking chair and a talk or two, some deep breaths, getting our tools out (MINE INCLUDED) and about an HOUR.... and FINALLY, she did it correctly. I felt like I was reliving a Helen Keller scene with BCLC overtones! LOL
 
BCLC does NOT mean allowing a child to lead everything. 
TODAY.... just 11 months later, Miss Alli handles the kitchen by herself! She does a GOOD JOB, including the floors!  I can trust she knows how to do each thing and she is really proud of herself.
This is another part of BCLC that some may not understand. When you parent a child towards their EMOTIONAL AGE, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY WILL REMAIN THERE. The idea is that once you recognize and fill in the holes of emotional neglect, the child is then able to move on.  
To me, it is like helping a child fill in the holes of a bad math education. If they are in Pre-Algebra, but do not yet understand fractions, decimals and times tables,
BEFORE they can master Pre Algebra, they have to go back and master the basics. 
If you keep them struggling through the Pre Alegbra, they will ALWAYS struggle. If you go BACK and master the easy stuff, they will QUICKLY move ahead and MASTER Pre-Algebra! Does that make sense?
 
How have we handled hitting, disrespect or hurting our animals?
 We have handled this the same way we would with a baby or toddler. 
"You may not hit" or "We don't hurt the chicken!"...." We do not talk to each other that way!"  We NEVER EVER leave a child alone with an animal or another child unless we know they can be trusted. In the case of Miss Alli, we moved all 4 girls into the same room, so our older girls could keep an eye out for her behaviors. We also left our bedroom doors open which were right across from each other for the first 6 months.  That way we were doubly aware and nobody was singled out.
When Anna was first home, she had so much underlying anger she would shake. I saw her with the chickens and she would hover over them and shake. If I had left her alone with a chicken, I have no doubt she would have tried to hurt it.  I had to manually teach her how to show the chickens proper affection.  Within a year, she was able to dress the ROOSTER and have him lay on his back in her doll carriage to everybody's disbelief! :)  She became Anna the Chicken Whisperer and is still known by that name by our neighbors. :)
I would reassure a child while correcting behaviors, "I love you too much to let you hit."
If this invokes a tantrum, that is ok. Our children need to learn to accept correction and understand they are NOT the only ones who need it.  After waiting for them to get calm, we can  then deal with the issue at hand.  If it takes an hour or four hours, it doesn't matter.  This is something EACH FAMILY has to go through, and because of that, I would get every family member on the same TEAM!
 During a time of calm instruction, always make sure your child knows they are NOT the only ones who have ever been snotty, hit a dog or hit a sibling.  This keeps them from feeling so overwhelmed with being "different", or from being overwhelmed with "shame".  
 
Preparing them for transitions:
Many of our little ones don't handle transitions well. When our kids are two or three , it is important to prepare them for leaving the park, or going to bed, so they aren't surprised with change. Some of our older children are about that age emotionally, so we have to do much the same thing for a while. :)
If they are 2 or 3 in emotion, they may need very, very simple commands for a chore.  Overwhelm is typically the reason a person will not do something!  Ask my husband; I'm supposed to be doing the data entry so we can complete taxes. LOL
Instead I would prepare them for what they are  supposed to do and make SURE they understand.  "In 15 minutes we are going to make your bed."  "In 5 minutes it will be time to put away your toys."  When the timer goes off, (timers are great because they do not involve you directly)  we are going to come to the table for dinner." 
MOST of the time, this solves transition problems. Many times, they are having trouble transitioning, not necessarily refusing a request.  

 Refusing A Request
If a child flat our refuses to do a chore or follow an instruction,  I would never wait to intervene as in, wait for a mood to change. I may wait for a moment and take a deep breath. But waiting on a child's mood to change puts the child in the driver's seat, and that can make them feel very insecure and also reinforce their possible view that they do not need us or that we do not care. 
 If cleaning their room, they many need simple instructions one at a time. "I need you to take this bag and fill it with the trash from your bedroom".  "Now, I need you to pick up your clothes and put them in the laundry."  "Can you please put your shoes in the closet?" "Can you help mommy make your bed?"  Simple, short and sweet, gets a job done.  (I need to remember this for my overwhelming office job) :)

 Making things right!
I would instantly intervene in any hitting or snottiness towards another person.  "WE DO NOT HIT!" "It is not ok to speak disrespectfully to another person". This was one of our girl's biggest struggle.  She was a little shocked when it was directly addressed the very first time it happened, and each time after that.  At first it was a tantrum invoking, tree climbing  thing, but she soon realized that life didn't move on until this was dealt with, in gentle kindness.  It is an extreme rarity now. I would say non existent, but the minute I hit the post button, that would be over. LOL

HOWEVER, we didn't deal with just the behavior, but inquired about the underlying cause.  (Usually fear of rejection and insecurity)  "What's going on sweetie? You seem really upset? You are speaking harshly!"  Sitting in the rocking chair, or near the tree, or by the bed, or wherever she would wind up was interesting. On the bed, blankets would be pulled over her head. So we talk through the blanket. After a few minutes, a gentle rub on the back, and then, permission to enter her world.... "May I see you?"  And then, a hand.... and a grip from her that signals, I want you to snuggle.  Then, a tender talk...about the underlying issue...and how to rectify the hurt feelings of another.   And if her feelings were hurt, rectifying that too.  THAT is what I mean by dealing with it.  Not harsh correction or punishment.  But ROOTING out the problem.
There is no punishment you can give for a child feeling hurt or insecure. You deal with the insecurity and the problem disappears.
I think sometimes BCLC can be confusing. Some think that a child's words to you can be snotty and harsh. I know in BCI live, some of those instances happen in the skits.  I do not believe Heather is saying that it is ok for kids to yell at parents because they don't have the right cereal.  
Her message is, the cereal isn't the issue. Obviously! Getting to the root of the issue; a child being scared about a test, or a child who was formerly starved, or past pain, gets the child calm, and THEN you can deal with the actual behaviors.  If all you addressed were the disrespect, that is the mowing over the weed and forgetting the root.  To root out, you need to dig deeper, address the pain first and THEN come up with new ways to express frustration or fear.
 What about Apologies?
This is the tricky part. 
I have always insisted on an apology. Usually they come naturally, as we are all apologizers. :) We have had one of our girls say, "Well I'm not sorry!"  I have told her, it doesn't matter. It is the right thing to do. So we worded it, as, "It was wrong to hit you, or be snotty to you,  will you forgive me!"  
That takes the "lie" out of it. LOL  AND we ALWAYS deal with the Spiritual along with correction.  We pray. We talk faith, and what God's laws are and how we NEED a SAVIOR, mama and daddy too. None of us do what is right,all the time,  we ALL sin. We need to pray that God will HELP us to be sorry if we are not.
This usually causes our hypervigilant children to relax as they know they are not the only ones, even if they are the only ones at that moment. :) 
 
Parenting hurt children is a wild ride!  We parents..... get to go along for the ride; but it is much better if we take the driver's seat and slow the car down, making sure everybody stays safe. :)

Of course all circumstances are not the same.  If a child is significantly older, and you can easily be overpowered, it may be that some tweaking is needed.   A 12 year old may do best calming themselves with you near them, IN their room.   They may need 20 minutes and then you can sit next to each other and attempt to snuggle.  A calming understanding voice makes all the difference in the world.  I have seen my girls hearts melt when my voice gives them the understanding and reassurance they so need.  Just saying, "It's gonna be ok!" has an amazing effect.
I am a rather tall person, so holding a 12 year old isn't that hard.
But if you are 5'1", it may be a lot harder.   If a child NEEDS to be rocked, or snuggled, do what you can to find that comfortable position, so it can happen. 

A word about EYE CONTACT:
We do not force it.  Of course, many want to say if a child doesn't make eye contact they are not attached or are unattached. I don't think this is true. I think sometimes they are too ashamed.  To force it, is too harsh.  We do encourage eye contact, but not in the height of the moment.  When we are talking many times it is at the END of our conversation that eye contact is established.  And for one of our little girls, (Our Sarah),  she just gets too nervous during a serious talk. Eye contact makes her have nervous laughter.  She HATES it when that happens, so we wait for her to be relaxed.  It works very well.

About Miss Alli:
I have truly been amazed how quickly she has grown. Our one year anniversary is coming up fast and she is really looking forward to it. I have much to share that will be reserved for our one year celebration post.  She is a brave, amazing little girl! :) And HEALING TRULY HAPPENS! We are living it! :)
Don't EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, give up! Never, EVER, EVER! EVER. :)
                                                                   ever.

10 comments:

Mike and Christie said...

Sorry for all the weird fonts... I'm not quite sure what happened! :)

Bethany said...

What does BCLC stand for?

Mike and Christie said...

Beyond Consequences Logic and Control

Keri said...

I wish you would write a book. Even with almost 7 years of BCLC under my belt, I am ALWAYS learning more from you. I expect to see God handing you a crown in heaven " And THIS crown is for helping Keri to be a better parent.." He'll say:)

steph said...

You hit the nail on the head with the Helen Keller comment. In fact, just the other day I told someone I felt like that was whom I was parenting. We are dealing with a lot of regression and it has been so tricky for me to figure it out. To figure out what is 'water' for this little boy... Progress is being made and although we have a long ways to come, they have both made huge strides. It is tiring and exhausting to try to stay one step ahead of them, but if you have been doing it for this long, I feel inspired that maybe I can too:)

JJ said...

You know, I will NEVER forget the innocently condescending attitude of a dear acquaintance who watched me feed the end part of several meals to my son at the age of FIVE. I didn't let her harsh judgements stop me, though I was taken aback. Now, it seems so funny to look back on this in light of your post. HE WAS ONLY FIVE! (I know this is not your point, but this lady had been an Olympian, which helped me rightly blow off her dismay. Her bio "prodigies" were 2 and 4 at the time and had the expectations of 7 and 9 y.o.'s. OY!) Honestly, either DH or I, or BOTH of us have likely fed our 13 y.o. a bite or 2 as recently as this week, lol. And, so what?!? :D

TheCoffeys said...

Great post! Boy, I am constantly learning how to handle our two girls. I stay on my knees asking for wisdom from God as He is the one who truly knows them.

Milena said...

Brilliant! I just wonder how I will ever memorize what you write and learn even a tenth of it.... I feel that using your methods would help so much, but I never remember when I really need it :-(

Hevel Cohen said...

I'm with Keri! If you wrote a book, I'd buy it!

The McEacherns said...

Your Helen Keller comment had me laughing out loud! I was just thinking of ordering the BCLC book, and now I'm pretty sure I need to! Why on earth could I not have found your blog about 20 months ago?!

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