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
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:
- Respect (for self, learning, property, others, elders)
- Obedience (God, parents, elders, rules)
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.
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.)