Mama S here. I figure it is best to start with the biggest topic that people have opinions on with Mama A’s and my parenting. Boundaries. People look into our lives and don’t understand why our “no’s” are so firm and why we almost never say maybe. They don’t see how many times we re-frame what would have been a No to a yes. We are going to explore that today.
P came to us as an adult adolescent. The first time she met us she had firm questions and was aggressive in the information she was going to get and how she was going to get it. She had a long history of lying and manipulation and had only made it one month in a previous foster home before they put in their 30 day notice due to her oppositional behaviors, fighting, lying and manipulation. What followed that for her was heartbreaking and, suffice it to say, left a lasting impact on her.
When the time came for us to meet her, we were blown away (not in a good way) with how adult she acted. We watched her interact with her social worker and our eyes got wide. She stayed with us the first weekend and when she left we sat down and had to have a real chat. Is this kiddo right for our home? Are we the right home for her?
On paper, the answer was a resounding NO. This was the first time we were going to take in an older kiddo to live with us. We had experience with little lady, but she didn’t have the aggression, manipulation, lying, and defiance that P was to come with. But… something made us pause.
I’ll admit that I took to P immediately. There was something about her fire that drew me to her and wanted to help her. Mama A and I joke that our dysfunction was compatible with hers. We had met another little lady and it was clear that hers did not mesh with ours, so we took our first weekend as a good sign.
P pushed us HARD that first weekend. She knew that we were meeting and hanging out to see if we were a fit for her and if she was a fit for us. She asked us no less than 25 times that weekend if we thought she was a good fit for our family and if we would let her come live with us. She pushed ever boundary that we had (and at that time we didn’t have many at all!). She came at us strong and we met her at each point.
We took her back to where she was living and didn’t want to leave her there. She was safe, but that was the only real need of hers that was being met. We wanted her out of that place ASAP.
We chatted with her worker and our worker and decided that she would come live with us.
She moved in shortly after and we took things one day at a time. We had just a few boundaries and those were pretty firm. We limited technology time, had a set bed time, and food was to stay in the kitchen or dining room. We wanted to grow into our rules and boundaries with her and get to know her and where we had to be firm and where we could give.
Over the next 10 months we learned so much and figured out what boundaries are firm and unwavering.
- Sugar. This one is HARD for other people to understand. So hard. We get an extreme amount of push back on this one.
- P doesn’t get more than a certain amount of sugar in a meal and very limited non-natural sugars at all. That means that if we come to your house and there is cake, if she gets some it will be less than ¼ of a slice that you would give to anyone else and even then it will only be right before we leave to go home.
- At school when there are treats, she gets to pick out of a basket of salty treats or fresca. At home, we don’t eat dessert most days unless it is a sugar free fudgesicle.
- People don’t get it. They sneak her sugar. All. The. Time. And we ALWAYS know. Her behavior changes. She gets rude, defiant, can’t speak/move/think fast enough, aggressive, and has lost a large amount of friends after she has had even the smallest amount of sugar. We have to sit there and console her after kids yell at her, hit her, throw rocks at her after she has had sugar. Kids do these things (and it is not OK) because she treats them terribly (which is also not ok) after she has had sugar and doesn’t realize it. One day I had to tell her to stop what she was doing because she was making another girl cry and she had no idea.
- People say, “it can’t be that bad”, we are mean parents, we are wrong, etc. and then they see her after she had sugar and they go “OHHHHHHH, this is what you mean!” This happened this week with her therapists. They knew we were firm with this but had never seen it.
- The saddest truth, she is ADDICTED to sugar and craves it and seeks it out at every opportunity. She knows that it causes her problems, but like an addict, she can’t help herself.
- Technology. This one most parents get, but jokingly tell us we are crazy for limiting it because it is so hard.
- It is extremely easy to see your kiddo struggling with a situation and on the verge of a tantrum and hand them a phone or tablet. Instant babysitter. You can sleep in. You can get the dishes done. You can get an hour of quiet time to recharge. OH DO I GET IT! It is so much easier to parent a kiddo that has a screen. Until it isn’t anymore. We see so many parents that post about how their kids won’t get off their phones. Won’t look them in the face. Won’t talk to their friends. Don’t have any friends. They don’t know how to interact with people, don’t know how to listen in school, don’t know how to be bored Etc. We had to try to combat that.
- P gets 30 minutes of technology time on Fridays, 90 minutes on Saturdays, and 90 minutes on Sundays. You want to know something crazy?! Most weekends she is on her tablet for less than 15 minutes the whole weekend. We have gone over 4 weekends in a row where she hasn’t gone on it at all on the weekends, but has gone on for about an hour a day at school. How is this even possible?! A pre-teen that doesn’t spend all their time in front of a screen? Well, she does go in front of a screen. She gets up early on Saturdays and Sundays and heads to the (finished) basement and watches TV until Mama A and I get up. Once I get up and make breakfast the TV gets unplugged and it it’s off until the next day. Then we spend the day hanging out, playing games, cleaning the house, playing outside, swimming, she goes and hangs out with her friends, we go shopping, etc. until it is time for our bedtime routine. There isn’t time for technology on our weekends because we do so much together!
- Why do we do this? There are many studies that show that technology impacts kiddos developing brain. It impacts social skills. It impacts the ability to be bored. It impacts the ability to wait for something. All areas where our little lady needs to make leaps and bounds to catch up with peers her own age. If we are not on technology she can interact with us, parrot what we do, watch what Mama A and I do, watch our interactions, learn from us, etc. Boy does she ever!
- Do we limit all technology?! No. We just encourage different types of technology time at various points. One night we spent 2 hours on the computer doing a research paper on animals from a book. She got to look up the animals, learn facts about them, find pictures of them, and put them into a paper. Other days we play Bookworm. A game that is geared toward learning how to spell and word formation. Other days she plays robulux with friends. We just try to help her learn appropriate usage of technology as she has had her access cut off at school due to inappropriate behaviors.
- Routines. This one people get right away. We have a morning and a nighttime routine that is set down to what we say and how we tuck her into bed at night. Deviations cause panic and the inability to sleep at night. Our routines are listed on our mirror in our bathroom and she checks her list each morning and night to see what she has to do, and in what order. It works.
- We are the main people she gets her needs met from. This one is also confusing to other people. This has to do with attachment struggles that she has. The easiest way to look at this is that she should get 95% of her food/clothes/toys/activities from us. The other 5% is for special occasions when that sort of item is appropriate. P sees someone as meeting her needs as an instant pivotal person in her life and will say/do/act inappropriate things after getting her needs met from them. Also, she views love is when people give you things, not how much they care about you/show their commitment in your life. We are attempting to help reframe that in her mind to help her build more appropriate attachments.
- Also, when she sees someone else is looking to meet her needs her manipulative behaviors kick into over drive and she will move heaven and earth to get everything she possibly can from them regardless of how bad that is for her. It is a vicious cycle that we hope to break.
Those are the big ones. And are they ever huge! Other than that, we say yes as much as possible and help her to feel in control with as many things as are appropriate. We will go into the control/Yes’ in a later post. We will also post about the Maybes and why we do whatever we can to avoid that as often as possible.
I would love to hear from you. What boundaries and guidelines do you have for your kiddos? How is that working for you?
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