Friday, December 18, 2009

Getting to the bottom of it

Taz has been wired the last few weeks.  He is angry, defiant and somewhere just above wild.  He is keeping his grades up to As and Bs at school which I love, but is getting detentions, smarting off to teachers and me, and spending time alone in his room. Spending time in your room as a "healthy teen" (there really is such a thing) is normal. But a child who is angry and defiant and just tying to stay away from his family needs to be out of there. So last night I told Taz he needed to come read his book on the couch.  Reading is also his way of shutting out the world.  There are worse ways for sure.

I had tried hugging, talking and comforting earlier in the afternoon which all were just brushed off angrily by him. This time I sat next to him on the couch. He had his feet curled up so I made sure I sat touching them.  The converstaion goes like this and I'll tell why in italics. Oh! Background info! In the earlier conversations I discovered at the Y on Monday he hung out with a kid who is in world's of trouble. He has had the police called on him at the library, smarted off to people at the Y until kicked out and is hanging out with teen relatives that are headed for trouble. Taz was very defensive about "He's a great kid and my friend."

First I stopped to think about what the real issue is. What is driving him to want to hang out with someone like this. He is back to old thoughts about himself "I am no good. I am un lovable. I am bad." First step is to address those feelings.

Me: Taz you are going back to believing some lies about yourself. I love you so much. You are a smart, lovable, and sweet guy underneath the behavior. You are back to thinking of yourself as that unwanted foster kid. That isn't who you are anymore.

Taz's eyes softened and he nodded. I began to rub his leg and snuggled  a little closer. He slid his feet under me a little.

Taz has high school finals beginning today and was supposed to be studying for  a test. He was reading instead. He had been kicked out of a class earlier for refusing to do his work or stay in his seat.

Me:  I know you know how to be  a great student. Tell me about a time when you did well at school.

Looking for a past success here.

Taz: I got a 94 on a test once.

Ask how they succeeded.

Me: How did you do that? That is really impressive!

Taz: I studied (bingo)

Me: Really? How long did you have to study to get a great that good?

Taz: About 10 minutes

Reward and encourage that behavior with words. I should say he really probably only did study 10 minutes. This kid can remember things like you wouldn't believe.

Me: Really? Only 10 minutes. See! You are smart! A lot of kids could study all evening long and not get a grade like that.

Taz: I'm going to get my study guide out for my test. Will you help me study?

We studied for about a half hour as it was several pages.

This type of conversation can be used for a variety of subjects but here are the keys.

Look at what is under the behavior. The issue was not his friends but the feelings that would cause him to choose that type of a friend.

Ask about past successes and swoon over them.

Ask if they think they can do that again.  We didn't get to that point because he realized it on his own

Give it a try! Have a healing day!


Hannah said...

I really needed that played out for me today. My 16 year old is doing the same thing and I had no idea how to approach it.

Thank you!


Diana said...

You are amazing! Thanks for sharing this with us. I needed to hear it, too.

Jennie said...

my youngest does NOT have a RAD diagnosis but this is a very typical conversation with her. I think Sissy's RAD issues have created bad patterning for Wonder Girl. Wonder Girl often has to be forced to rethink her self-value in a positive light. The slightest hint of negativity sends her in a tail spin. I chalk it all up to having two older siblings with severe challenges. One day I told her that she was a better reader than her two older siblings were at her age and she very nearly broke down and cried with joy! "mom, does that mean I don't have special needs?" poor kid!

Brie said...

amazing. i hope santa brings me some of your patience and wisdom this christmas!

Brenda said...

Thanks ladies! Jennie "Special needs" is a label kids hate. I feel bad for my kids being in special ed but I don't see anyway around it. They so hate being different.

peggysue said...

Thanks for that sample conversation Brenda. Some of us need things spelled out in black and white. :) My daughter did not have a banner week at school either. Now we're on Christmas break and we have to work on having a positive break experience.

Suzie said...

whow! That's great.

By the way: I think it is not only great for RAD-children in crisis. I suppose it would be a very supportive and encouraging way of dealing with homework or whatever for "regular" kids...