Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Basic Package"

A couple of week ago I participated in a Katharine Leslie "webinar" from the comfort of my own dining table. I have only read a few of her works and there are, of course, aspects I agree with and aspects that I don't believe work for me. Nonetheless, this was a wonderful way to be reminded of her work and get a "new spin" on some of what I had read before. I have been thinking a good deal about some of what she said and have even started several posts as I test out these ideas. I have so many thoughts jumbled up in my head that I have to write them down but I think it is going to be more piecemeal over time.

Last night I was chatting with ldw over at My Sweet Chaos and we were discussing what Katharine Leslie calls the "basic package." For me this resembles Tortuga's grounding from a few months ago. (I have referenced this here and here and here.) I don't think I had explicitly looked at Leslie's basic package reference but after the webinar I did go back and revisit it a bit.

Katharine Leslie discusses creating a home environment that is a "structure and rehabilitation" setting which meets "basic needs for food, shelter and warmth." In this setting the parent focuses on safety and basic needs but would provide affection in response to the child affection when it is the right thing to do at the time. She encourages parents to do the following:
  • give consequences that produce caring behaviors
  • call attention to the "giving" and the "taking" that is a part of every interaction so the child learns to recognize when it is happening or how it is supposed to happen
  • coach children to say and do what "normal" and healthy children say and do
Basically, if I understand this correctly, we are to work to develop a relationship with our child that doesn't have him (or her) doing all the taking so that we are drained in the process. During this time we provide the basic needs, work to have positive interactions and fun, and we honor the child's choice to be a member of the family or not and respond accordingly.

Last fall I was getting pretty frustrated with many of the behaviors that were going on with the kids and that I was seeing Pollito and even Milagro pick up from the older kids. So we had a family meeting in which I asked the older kids to tell us what behaviors and attitudes were most important in our family. They quickly rattled off rules they shouldn't break but I pushed them to think about what we as their parents really valued. Eventually we hit upon a list of our most important "Family Values". There were 5 of them:
  1. Safety
  2. Respect (for self, learning, property, others, elders)
  3. Responsibility
  4. Obedience (God, parents, elders, rules)
  5. Caring/Kindness
I informed them that I was going to try to stop making too many rules and just work to remind them to act according to those values and if they couldn't or wouldn't there would be serious consequences in an effort to help them become better family members. Doing this really helped to keep me in check around the rule making. I was no longer making new rules every time something bad happened because all I had to say was "you aren't acting responsibly so you will need to _________." I was still doling out consequences left and right but it made what they (and I) had to remember that much easier and if he/I forgot what he was supposed to be doing I could still give him a consequence when we got in the car or home. So, for example, if vile stuff was coming out of Tortuga's mouth during a shopping trip I would tell him he needed to put his hand over his mouth for the duration of the trip because he wasn't being caring and respectful. If he couldn't control himself then he was also being disobedient and would need to practice keeping his hand over his mouth in the care and then when we got home. Sometimes I might get caught up in my shopping and forget that he wasn't supposed to be talking (although someone else would often remind me :)) It didn't matter because I could just pick up where we left off once we got in the car or home and I would claim that I was no longer issuing reminders for these things because he should be responsible enough to monitor himself. He might also need to write sentences to remind himself before he could get dinner or snack and if that still didn't work he could go to bed early. I just had to make sure I followed through. I am not saying this solved all our problems but it made things go smoother and made me less anxious about catching every single rule infraction.

We stepped things up for Tortuga when C. and I decided to ground him back in March. In a sense I put him on what Leslie calls the "basic package." He got all his basic needs met (safety, security, shelter, food, clothing) along with some toys and activities that were more conducive to his behaving appropriately such as books, journals, drawing pad/pencil, activity books, music of my choice (wordless, soft, soothing) and puzzles (legos got too noisy and it was amazing where those little buggers ended up!) We "removed" him from all family activities that weren't essential NOT as a punishment but to remove him from anxiety provoking situations or wherever he couldn't handle himself accordingly. We didn't let him be with any of the other children unsupervised even for a minute and when we did allow him to interact with the other kids we reminded him up front of the expectation and removed him immediately when he couldn't act accordingly. We also left him home whenever the rest of the kids went to a social activity and he even lost his extracurricular activities (scouting and football.)

Yes, he was upset and angry. Yes, he acted out even more for a little while BUT when he saw we were serious and not budging he started working a little harder to get some things back. We also noticed almost immediately that despite his anger he was actually calmer and more relaxed. I realized that what we did was take the pressure off. I thought we had done that already in lots of other ways prior to the grounding but in fact it was still too much for him to handle. We made his world really, really small and it helped. Of course we had one really huge obstacle which was that none of what was happening at home was reinforced at school so our biggest challenges were after school. More things started slipping through the cracks (homework not brought home, acting out in class, etc.) but we just explained that the people at school weren't as invested as we were in him being successful so they weren't going to go the extra mile to take away the stressors. We are just biding our time until school ends and we are confronting the very real possibility that he needs to be homeschooled.

Over time we are slowly introducing some things that might be considered what Leslie calls part of the "luxury package." She says a "luxury package" is the basic package plus those things kids don't need but are great to have such as parties, meals out, driving them to activities, etc. In our case the luxury package includes playing with other kids, playing with toys that need extra care, participating in family night games/movies, and at one point even included sitting at the dinner table with the rest of the family. As Tortuga has shown good family behaviors (well done chores without complaining or attitude, kindness towards his siblings, helpfulness, and even cooperation when he doesn't really want to do something) we have added some of the pieces of what she might call the "luxury package".

Baby steps... but we are slowly seeing small progress and I like him a little more.

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Katharine Leslie has a webinar scheduled for June 18 "Parenting From the Trenches," 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm eastern time. (Click the title of the webinar to go to her website then look to the right hand column under announcements for details.)

1 comment:

ldw said...

Great post! I am so glad you covered what we spoke about in writing - I am sure to reference this post many times. I talked with M and H today and we did the family values thing. I wrote them down and posted them on the fridge. M was "concerned"" that he would not be part of the family much since he feels he is unable to respect our family values (most were the same as yours). I told him I know he can't handle them and that is why I am doing this, because I love him and want him to get better/stronger. He said it isn't my fault he is the way he is and I reponded by agreeing but also pointing out it isn't his fault either. I also told them I am not mad about their behaviors - if I were I would just be angry and not try to help. I feel they really believed this. It didn't take long for his behavior to get out of hand and although I had intended to have today be a day of pointing out the disrespect and control behaviors without consquences, his actions were pretty bad. I had him do 20 sentences. He was very upset but HE DID IT. I praised him on the follow through and the quickness that he completed them and asked if he felt ready to return to the family fun time. He said yes and after a bit, he let his guard down and did really well the rest of the day. Sheesh, this should have been my post! LOL! Basically, I am trying to say THANK YOU once again for the advice, I am feeling much better and in control again.

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