Sunday, February 5, 2012

feeling like a worm

Actually, I like worms. Maybe I'm feeling like a maggot.

I have guilt issues. I always want to fix everything and make everyone happy. Let me tell you, this is not the easiest trait to have when dealing with discipline and children. M was just caught out in a lie she has been sustaining for over 2 weeks now. I pretty much knew she was lying but didn't have proof until Friday. I gave her lots of chances to fess up without outright accusing her of lying. I was afraid if I was wrong that she would never trust me. Well now she has been found out and was grounded for the weekend. It's been pretty hard on her because I went to look at a house for sale with K and not her yesterday, and today some family friends were doing a birthday thing she is missing out on. She just cried herself to sleep on the couch. I feel like I'm kicking puppies. She says she doesn't understand why she is in trouble for longer than K (K is 5), that she feels left out, and goes back and forth about whether she even lied.

She started her new school a little over 2 weeks ago. We asked every day if she had homework. She said no all but 2 times. I was sure she had some so I gave her a chance to admit she wasn't doing it. I told her I would be very surprised if she wasn't getting homework; she said she was doing it in school. I finally got her grade log in to work on Friday and the highest grade she has is a 30%. She hasn't turned in a single assignment since she started the new school. When I confronted her she claimed she didn't know she had to do them, but I found most of the assignments blank in her notebook. I know she has memory problems so it was conceivable she forgot they were there, but then she kept changing her story. I am pretty convinced she knew she had homework and chose to lie, but I think her motives were not laziness (more on that in a minute).

I knew this was a problem she had with her previous school so I did everything I could think of, short of following her to school, to help her get a better start. It wasn't the grades themselves that caused the discipline, it was the lying. I was not completely on board with punishing her but backed up my husband when he said there should be consequences for lying. My gut is telling me that this is the wrong way to handle it but I can't tell if that's because I can't stand to see her hurting, or because this is not the best way to help her.

I personally don't think she understands that staying home and not having fun is a consequence for lying. I think she feels rejected and isolated, and doesn't understand why. I know her previous foster parents were even more punitive, and screamed a lot, but that doesn't make me feel any better. I feel in my heart there is a better way to get through to this kid. I think she lies because she has been trained to. She is used to getting screamed at for bad grades, never mind that she has never been in the same school for an entire school year, her father sometimes "forgot" to even send her to school, and she has had more homes in the last 9 years than many people do in a lifetime. She's expected to get passing grades and no one has even evaluated her for learning problems. So to keep from getting screamed at she lied about getting stuff done. She was going to get in trouble anyway, so why not prolong the inevitable by lying? So how do you work with that? Yes, lying is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, but can we really expect someone that has been lying her whole life just to survive to change the minute she moved in? How can I get that concept across to my husband? What do I even do with that? Should I not punish her but just point out what she could have done instead? Will she really learn anything that way? I'm so lost with this stuff. I thought I'd have a better idea of how to handle this stuff with all my research, but most of the things I read dealt more with violence and out of control behavior. I am out of my depth with these somewhat subtle destructive behaviors.

I tried to make sure she knew she hadn't lost our love. I stayed with her while she cried and told her I loved her and I wasn't trying to make her feel bad. I told her I was sorry she was feeling so bad. I hope that is enough for her to feel less rejected, I'm worried that it's not.

What I DID NOT do, which my stupid co-worker who adopted a baby said, was tell her that "if she wants to be in this family she has to take school seriously and try her best". What an a-hole he can be sometimes. I really hope his daughter doesn't have issues when she's older, and I hope to God that they never let him adopt an older child. That's a great idea - tell a kid that's had 3 failed adoptive placements that she can't be in our family if she isn't getting good grades. Idiot. The sad thing is that his feelings are not unusual. I don't understand why people are so willing to throw kids like M away. I just wish I knew the best way to help her.


  1. Sometimes I think they lie so we can get mad at them to re-enforce their low self-esteem.

    I'm not going to make a diagnosis, but sometimes some of the concrete methods to deal with kids with FASD can help kids who have been through trauma (as in kids in foster care). There are a number of blogs and books that deal with the lying aspect. I practice luv n l0gic but sometimes it just doesn't work with my kids.

    Really? I can opt-out of my family? Your co-worker is an a...

  2. Oof, I'm sorry. That sounds hard. Do you know Stacey at Anymommy -- ? I know she has dealt with attachment issues with her (much younger) adopted daughter and she may be able to point you to useful resources (and I am sure she will have a hug for you).

    I don't know what the right way to handle this is. I can tell you that when my DS who is normally pretty mellow melted down yesterday when I told him he couldn't watch Spongebob until he cleaned up the clothes he had flung all over his room (he couldn't find a particular shirt he wanted so he took everything out of every drawer and flung it all over the floor -- probably genuinely looking through it, I wasn't there when it happened, but the result was chaos), I went into his room and I did say to him basically, "For someone who is usually pretty clean [debatable, but never mind] and calm [true], you sure seem to be having a tough time about cleaning this up right now. Would it help if I helped you?" And he said yes and pulled himself together and we did it. Which is my long way of saying I absolutely think (even in much simpler cases) it is important to show the love and support even when you are enforcing a consequence.

    I can't remember how old your DD is but I'm not sure honestly that her chronological age here is even the most relevant factor given the many changes she has endured. Could you set up some system to help her track and complete homework, i.e. support her in finding a way to get done what she needs to?

  3. Oh no. Please don't feel like a worm. Or a maggot.

    For what it is worth, I think the way that you handled this situation was just lovely. I hope that I will be able to handle my own children in such a kind and graceful way when they are older.

    I know that my J is a LOT younger but I often find that, when I try and think things through from her point of view, as you've done here, I can kind of see why she has acted the way that she did. And as you say, this poor girl has been moving in and out of homes, hasn't even been attending school consistently, hasn't been evaluated to see what kind of support she might need and has still been expected to obtain passing grades and change her behaviour over night. And it's so hard to strike that balance between there being consequences and understanding why the situation has arisen and having sympathy and showing love.

    Can't believe what your co-worker suggested.

    And that was a long comment which contained not one sensible suggestion except please don't feel bad! My mother always says about parenting, "you can't take all the credit but you don't have to take all the blame." I think that's quite true.