We're going through a rough behavior period right now and I don't know how -- or if -- to blog about it, so I just haven't been writing.
S has been here for over 5 months now. I'd say we are definitely out of that "honeymoon period" they talked about in training.
I'm trying to keep things simple and focus on one major behavior issue at a time, so that we don't set ourselves up to be constantly criticizing her.
So, I picked the biggest one, set some boundaries and am holding my ground.
She hates it. She reacts with shock and frustration every time I follow through on a promised consequence. (And she's reminded of the consequence and given a chance to change the behavior every time. She never does.)
I make her cry at least once a day. It's becoming a gruesome joke -- how long we will make it today? To bedtime? To lunch? Not even through breakfast?
Today, I was that parent in the grocery store with the 3 year old in the cart screaming her head off and kicking her feet. You know, the one that seems to be ignoring their brat of a child? That was me. I wasn't ignoring her. I had told her that we would talk about what had happened and how to get what she wanted when she was ready to stop crying. I repeated that to her several times before she finally "heard" it and insisted (still sobbing) that she was done crying.
I don't know. I don't know if I'm doing this wrong. I don't know if there's a better way to help her understand that her choices have consequences and that I always mean what I say.
I have a training class coming up on behavior tools, which I really hope gives me some new ideas because I am at a loss.
It's hard to explain this even to caseworkers because it sounds like "normal 3 year old testing limits" behavior. Until you see it. And you see how out of proportion her rage is and how genuinely confused she seems to be by the fact that I follow through on consequences and how utterly incapable she is of repeating back the reason for that consequence. Even when I just gave them to her. The conversation will go something like this:
Me: "I put you in time out because you hit me. Do you understand?"
Me: "OK. Tell me why you had to go to time out."
Her: "Because I asked for ice cream."
Me: "What happened when you asked for ice cream?"
Her: "I wanted some."
Me: "I know you wanted some ice cream. You asked for some and I said no. Do you remember what you did when I said no?"
Her: "We don't hit."
Me: "Yes, we don't hit. But you hit me when I said no ice cream. Do you remember that?"
Me: "And you had to go to time out for hitting."
Me: "So, tell me why you were in time out?"
Her: "Because I can't have ice cream." **Not a real conversation. Hitting is not the behavior issue and not getting ice cream has never triggered it. But it gives you the flavor of how we're talking in circles and it feels as though she really can't articulate why she's in trouble....which makes me wonder if any sort of discipline could possibly be effective!
Before I know it, it seems we have spent more time trying to get her to verbalize her understanding of the misbehavior than it is reasonable to expect a 3 year old to talk about it.
I can't tell if she really doesn't get it, if she's trying to manipulate me into dropping it (by "playing dumb"), if this sort of response has gotten her out of trouble before....I just don't know. Maybe I picked the wrong behavior to focus on...but I don't feel like we can resolve any other behavior issues until we get this one more in line with normal 3 year old development.
She's had a psych eval, which said she was mostly fine, just "borderline in a few areas." I'm pushing for further testing and support for those borderline areas, but the wheels are turning really, really slowly.
I feel stuck. And I don't even know how to end this post, because it isn't resolved. We're working on it. We've told BioMom we're working on it and what we're doing and asked her to "be consistent" with us during visit time, but realistically we doubt that's happening. (Who wants to make their child cry when you only get to see them a few hours a week? Especially with someone watching every move you make. If S reacts to her mother enforcing these boundaries the same way she reacts to me, I'm sure Mom caves to make her "happy" again. I probably would, too, in her shoes. I have the luxury of enforcing my consequences in relative privacy and having plenty of "not in trouble" time to balance it out.) I'm trying to trust that things will improve if we stay consistent, but I'm feeling discouraged and ineffective right now.