natural consequences vs.?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by hamlet, May 28, 2011.

  1. hamlet

    hamlet New Member

    difficult child (4th grade) has gotten in trouble too many times at school this year. They send home a report called a "level one" when he misbehaves. Long story short, due to the number of level ones difficult child has received this year he could be made to attend a different school next year. That would be the natural consequence of his poor choices.

    difficult child and I had a deal that if he could make it for the last 10 days of school with no bad reports or notes sent home I would buy him an mp3 player. We did the whole CPS process, Plan B, came up with strategies, even did some role playing; it didn't help. Another level one was imposed on Friday.

    Of course, to me this means no mp3 player. I'm trying to decide how to break that to difficult child since he has conveniently forgotten about our deal. And what about easy child? He was promised the mp3 player too, and he has upheld his side of the bargain by not getting into trouble.

    What would you do?
  2. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    You get to conveniently forget about it, too. When he asks? "Oh, I thought you didn't want it anymore, since you broke your side of the deal." And walk away.

    As for easy child? Buy the mp3 player when the children are not with you, and give it to easy child in private. Later, when difficult child sees it? "Oh, easy child did his part of the deal." And walk away.

    If you make a deal? You have to follow through - especially with our difficult children, but with all kids. And if they cannot follow through? Then you're released.

    Hugs, though. It's never never never easy...
  3. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    What Step said.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It does go to show, however, that sometimes our kids are incapable of complying. Sometimes we really are asking more than they can give.

    When difficult child 1 was first diagnosed, the doctor explained it to me as follows:

    "I could promise difficult child 1 $100 if he can sit still on that chair for five minutes. He would be motivated indeed, he would want that $100. But he would be unable to comply. In the same way, asking a child to do what he is incapable of doing, is setting him up for failure."

    In this case, hamlet, you used a technique which is a very good one for most kids. But the greatest motivation in the world will not make something happen if it is utterly impossible for tat individual at that time. Example - if I have a broken leg, I will be unable to walk to the shop to buy milk. If someone promised me a million dollars to get that pint of milk, I could not do it. If the person who wants the milk does not know I have a broken leg, what will they think of me when I refuse to get the milk?

    We don't live inside our kids' heads. We don't know what they are dealing with. But in your son's case, I strongly suspect he is being punished for stuff he simply cannot help. Especially when the interactions involve other people, the circumstances can be completely out of control. You interact with your son, you have some control over events because you know him well enough to know which of your behaviours can make him worse. But the school staff have no such vested interest in helping him stay calm. They are more likely to trigger him and not really think too much about it. And his getting a bad report is multifactorial - his behaviour is involved, yes, but so is the behaviour of the other people in the situation.
    difficult child 3 used to get into trouble for hitting kids at school. But we observed - he would never walk up to a kid and start a fight. He generally was reacting to verbal or physical attack. As he got older, he would put up with more before he hit. We were very hard on him for hitting other kids, even when provoked. We were so hard on him, in fact, that I lost perspective and often criticised him for what was actually very normal behaviour. The crunch came one day when we were at the beach. A group of boys were following difficult child 3 around and bullying him, They were shouting insults at him. I did the usual thing, told difficult child 3 to stay away from him. But I observed these kids seeking difficult child 3 out just so they could hassle him. I finally decided we should take him home before he blew a gasket. I called him, he began to walk towards me, but halfway to me, he passed these boys and suddenly something snapped. I think they must have said something, from the way they were looking at him and grinning. He turned and attacked, knocked one kid down into the shallow water and began pummelling him hard, fists going like pistons. I was too far away to get to him fast enough; husband was quicker. Good, I thought, he will scold our boy for attacking. But no - husband, who is even harder on difficult child 3 than me, turned and yelled at the boys. "You deserved that! I've been watching you, you have been hassling him and he has been trying to avoid you. Now get yourselves home and be grateful I'm not coming back with you to tell your parents about your behaviour!"

    It made me realise - I was so totally blinkered by my fear of difficult child 3 being seen as 'different', that I had been prepared to see my son as the bad kid, and the others as the victims.
    Interesting result - we went back to the beach over the next few days, there was generally one or more of these same boys there. They left difficult child 3 completely alone. So sometimes a kid does have to hit back. It's just that it is too socially complex for our Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids to understand when there is no other option, so we err on the side of caution and pacifism, and train our Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids to stay calm. A tall order for any kid, especially one with impulse control issues. And especially in a school setting where there are fewer supports in the worst social situations we can ever put a difficult child.

    So for future reference - I would recommend you don't make deals that he has buckley's chance of keeping. Set smaller goals with smaller and more immediate rewards. Material goods are not a good idea as a reward. A better reward is the gift of your time - for every day he does not get a level one, you play a card game with him for half an hour. Or go for a walk together to get ice cream. Just you and him. Then if he has a bad day, he only misses out on his reward for that day.

    It's a lot cheaper than an MP3 player! And you know what? It will mean more to him, in the long run, that you spent time with him, precious time with just you, focussed on him. For our kids, that is gold, pure gold.

  5. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    I completely agree with Marge! Very well said! Instead of striving for perfection (no level ones over 10 days) - maybe it could have been no level ones 7 out of 10 days or something. I'm not sure. But I do agree -sometimes no matter how motivated our difficult child's are - they are just not capable of doing it.
  6. keista

    keista New Member

    Do what Step said, but in the future consider what Marguerite said, I was sidetracked thinking along the same lines.

    I was also thinking how truly unfair it was if easy child got the same deal. It's like having 2 kids - one with an IQ of 100 and the other with an IQ of 130 (all other things being equal) and expecting them to get equally good grades. If difficult child has been able to go 10 days without getting a bad report, then this may have been a great deal to make for him, and he really could have succeeded, but it really seems way too easy for any easy child which guaranteed success for easy child, and hence your parenting dilemma of how to deal with it. I think in your gut you may know it was unbalanced. I find, when I KNOW it's fair, and I KNOW it's right, I have zero problems saying "Too bad!"
  7. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I was under the impression that easy child had gone a LOT longer...???
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Yep. What Step said.

    And yes, what Marg said. I read that sentence in your note and KNEW he couldn't help it. He's just too impulsive and lacking in control. It will take yrs for that kind of control (and perhaps medications). You didn't write a signature so I wasn't sure if your difficult child was on anything.

    One thing is to give your difficult child very short-term consequences. Like, a day. Or even 2 hrs. Know what I mean?? A week or 10 days is clearly too long.
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I just read your first post (backwards, but still, helpful :)
    Have you gotten a new diagnosis? Are you going to get any more testing done? I would recommend it. Between the two threads, I am getting a much better picture.
  10. hamlet

    hamlet New Member

    I am definitely feeling what Marg said is true - not that difficult child cannot go 10 days without a level one, he can and has in the past. In fact he has been able to go longer than 10 days at a stretch. What strikes me is that making the mp3 player part of the deal puts me in a tough position. I actually really want to gift him with the player. He has gotten into music lately, is developing a personal taste, and he has no other electronic gadgets (no cell phone, no i-touch. Plenty of his friends have those.) It is something I actually can give him that he wants, and there aren't too many of those.

    I also happen to believe that this particular level one, (I just looked at it this morning after my first post,) was a fairly frivolous use of the measure. I believe difficult child's story of what happened, and yes, other kids egged him on and were the real source of the trouble.

    The deal was more complicated than I first explained, which is why easy child is involved at all. easy child is simply getting an mp3 player at the same time as his brother, and yes, easy going not getting a level one. I would not have made the deal except I really thought that difficult child could and would do it. Now I regret it and want to find a way out of it that doesn't let difficult child completely off the hook.
  11. hamlet

    hamlet New Member

    On the question of a new diagnosis, I will have to switch difficult child to a new psychiatrist as his present one is leaving the practice. I will get what amounts to a second opinion from the second doctor, but I don't expect a battery of new tests. As I'm sure you are all aware, pediatrician psychologists are few and far between and really really hard to get in to see. I am certain that my insurance will not cover neuropsychologist evaluation unless there are academic difficulties. difficult child is a very good student who does his homework every night with no problem, tests well, excells at reading and is solid in math. I know that is a HUGE blessing. In truth, I feel that my son's difficulties are somewhat minor in comparison to what I've read here and what other parents face. I'm not trying to bury my head in the sand, I'm just trying to accept that I have to work as hard as him if I expect him to get "better."

    Some other details: difficult child is a easy child at his father's house, and until this year he was easy child at school, too. For a long long time his dad did not believe what I was describing as difficult child's behavior. It seems totally irreconcilable with the difficult child that dad sees. I have no idea how or why difficult child can control himself at his dad's house and not at mine.

    I have a suspicion that the school, knowing a little bit about difficult child's condition, is actually postured against him rather than wanting to help him. They know he has "problems" and so they are watching him, expecting him to mess up.

    difficult child's depression and lack of self esteem are what cause his odd behavior. He doesn't know how to tell me, "I'm scared," "I'm worried," "I'm intimidated by ..." Instead he lashes out at me and expects me to know how he feels without having to be told. Plus he has issues about food.
  12. keista

    keista New Member

    The easiest way to get out of it is to strike a new deal. Explain how you understand he was "pushed" to get the level one BUT he's still responsible for his own behavior, so for now, no mp3 player. BUT (make it fast so he doesn't have time to meltdown) you'll make this new deal with him (insert deal)

    Certainly not the best avenue with a difficult child, but as parents, we do make mistakes and have to figure a way out of our own parenting messes without compromising core parenting techniques. I've been there done that more than once. I now carefully consider my "reward" plans especially for those things I "wanted to give them anyway" I still manage to mess it up on occasion but also manage to stay firm when I know that the whole deal was a fair and equitable one.
  13. keista

    keista New Member

    Didn't see your second post. Boy! He sounds so much like my DD1. I feel the same way, that mine currently isn't as difficult as many on here, but I can see her going down that road (50/50 chance right now) if I don't do everything I can.

    It also sounds as if there might be some environmental or sensory issues at hand. DD1 has hypersensitive hearing - can hear me whisper across a LARGE room. Be super observant in differences in situations when he explodes. Ex XYZ happened at home and everything was OK, XYZ (almost exactly) happened in the cafeteria, he exploded. Gotta become an investigator of your own child. Compare your home and his father's home - age, cleanliness, old carpeting, new carpeting, floors etc. Sometimes allergies can cause/exacerbate erratic behavior. Dad may also be more of a "playmate" so these issues just don't come up.

    Don't know why you split or how long ago, but that may certainly be a factor in the disparity of behavior. I'm not saying it is, but something - like everything else - that is worthy of exploration. Therapy can help with that including his difficulty of opening up. I am convinced that DD1's bad behavior stopped at home BECAUSE her father left. In a nutshell, I told the kids that Dad started doing something REALLY, REALLY, REALLY bad and I asked him to stop but he didn't want to, so he left so he could continue. I am CONVINCED that in DD1's mind she was afraid this would happen to her - it's why I emphasized the REALLYs, but in a kid's mind, bad is bad. She has no scope of understanding what her dad did, so she's afraid of replicating it at home.
  14. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    I don't like using incentives because they can actually contribute to the behaviors we are working on by adding more stress and anxiety . Something non-salient and of the kid's choosing is less of a problem - the reward is self determined to help the kid achieve his goal. Because some of the time he does Ok and others not , does not mean we have a problem solved. He is doing the best he can , not making poor choices. He would prefer to be successful and adaptive.

    Because you feel that the MP3 would contribute to his development and would be a positive thing for him, I would say to him - I have been thinking about the MP3 , I think it would be good for you . I know we made a deal and it did not work out for you , I think not having a mp3 won't help you in school , what would help is if we sat down and try to find out what went wrong in the class and come up with some solutions. CPS is a process , there is always learning taking place even if the kid does not manange to pull it off , it just means more plan discussions. Plan B should be trying to find solutions that avoid the problem rather than teach the kid what to do if for eg he is frustrated.

    As far as diagnosis's , sometimes we need them to get accomodations but I find the ALSUP see paperwork - the list of assessed lacking skills and unsolved problems a good way to help others wear the lenses of lacking skills and identifying the skills and unsolved problems.

  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Another part of the process could be that difficult child makes some form of reparation for his actions, such as writing a letter of apology.

    And for future reference - if you feel something would be good for him, make it unconditional. We have at times spent money on difficult child 3 for classes in this or that, or access to other special privileges, because we felt it would be good for him or he needed it in some other way.

    One caution with am MP3 player - once they put those buds in their ears, you have lost the power to communicate freely with them. It gets VERY frustrating!

  16. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    That is so sad that the school may be on the lookout for bad behavior. It's so close to the end of the school yr, there isn't much you can do about these teachers, but I would still make an appointment with-the counselor and plan for next yr.
  17. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am coming into this late, and I don't quite understand the situation. The initial post seemed to say, to me at least, that difficult child had NOT gotten a level one report in the ten days, but instead a letter came home saying that through the year he had gotten so many that he may be sent to a different school for kids with behavior problems.

    If that is the case, it does NOT reflect on his behavior during the ten day period of the deal. he has NO control over when the school sent out that letter - it was NOT the result of his behavior during the contract. It was sent then due to timing of the administration - sent when they got around to it, NOT when he earned the last level one.

    If I am correct in this, the boy HAS earned his mp3 player just like his bro. Of course the letter is a blow esp to a parent, but it has NOTHING to do with the contract. NOTHING. and it shoudl NOT be held against difficult child because it was NOT sent due to his behavior during the contract.

    Now if I am wrong and he did get a level one and this letter came with it, then he should NOT get the mp3 player. You do NEED to confirm with school that no level ones were sent during that time period - he would not be the first difficult child to throw away a note of some kind from school.

    As for easy child, if he meets the goal then he gets the mp3 player. No need to make a big fuss. No need to hide it. Hiding it will just say that nothing easy child does can be rewarded publicly because he is not as worthy of public praise as difficult child and if he does something to earn praise it must be hidden because he does not matter as much as difficult child - his reward and good behavior means less than not upsetting difficult child.

    Don't get all mad. I KNOW that you do NOT think or feel this way. You just don't. But this IS what both easy child and difficult child will get from giving easy child his reward on the sly as was suggested above. I am not saying to make a big deal out of it - unless you would have done that if difficult child had earned it. Just handle easy child's reward the way you would handle it if difficult child earned it.
  18. hamlet

    hamlet New Member

    There was no letter sent home about difficult child being sent to a different school. It is in the school district behavior policy that this may be a consequence if x number of level one reports are issued to a student in a year. For the most part the district policy is meant for the upper grade levels - middle and high school. If a student receives four level one reports in a semester, s/he is supposed to get an automatic detention and possibly one of several other consequences. The elementary schools do not even use detention.

    difficult child never received a single level one report in four years at this school, but this year a new principal came on-board and he instituted the giving of level one reports. Since I had never seen a level one report, the first time easy child received one I looked up the policy. When he received four, I called the guidance counselor to question what further measures would be taken. It was news to the guidance counselor that a level one report had anything at all to do with the school district behavior policy. This told me that a level one is not normally given in the elementary grades, but that it was an "idea" of the principal. The guidance counselor revealed to me that in his opinion, the principal was probably not aware of the connection to the district wide behavior rules. At that point, my sons stopped receiving level one reports. This happened in early March. Still, difficult child has received sufficient level one reports this year that the district may try to send him to a new school, (which would be a disaster, in my opinion.)

    The current level one report that difficult child received on Friday was issued in the cafeteria. It was not a food fight or violence or hitting or anything of that degree. Several boys sitting at the table were being called names by another boy who was also playing with his sandwich. difficult child finally responded in kind. Why the cafeteria "maid," (yes, they call them maids,) didn't intervene before it got to the point of issuing a level one I do not know. Perhaps the cafeteria maids never caught wind of the message from the principal in March; "enough with the level ones."

    I'm sorry to be so long-winded. The point is that I feel I can and should call the principal to question this particular level one report. I'm not doing so because of the mp3 player, no. That is aside from the fact that there is not a clear policy and, in fact, I'm not sure I agree that this infraction was worthy of a level one. I guess I can find out.

    I agree with everything that's been said here, and especially the part about CPS being a process and not a one-size-fits-all panacea. I thank everyone who took the time to respond. Coming to this site right before school lets out has been a God-send. I feel I have the knowledge and hope to try some new things. The concreteness of CPS has really opened my mind and heart and I have much less fear of the summer than I did three weeks ago. I've already recommended this site to some friends who are also struggling and I'm going to mention it at church also since I know some parents there who might benefit.
  19. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You are the one on the spot. If you feel this needs to be discussed with the principal, then go to it. If you can sort it out, then the MP3 issue is also resolved. If not - you have to be the judge, and make whatever you do consistent with whatever you agreed on Maybe making a new agreement with him, or discussing with him that in this one case you are satisfied that the level 1 was perhaps a misunderstanding since it wasn't in the classroom and his behaviour was a lot better than it could have been, plus he was not the instigator. Find something you can comfortably hang it on.

    But have faith in yourself and your instincts. Too often our confidence in our parenting takes a big knock, and it takes connecting to people on a site like this, to reassure you that you are doing the right thing.

  20. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Absolutely, talk to the principal. It makes more sense now that you've gone into detail. This structure is so hard to implement when it hasn't been implemented b4, in addition to which, if the counselor doesn't know the details, the counselor should sit in with-you and all the cards need to be put on the table. I'd be tearing my hair out with-frustration.
    Go for it!