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― C. S. Lewis


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Monday, April 30, 2012

Helping Older Kid's Achieve, When They Are Emotionally Younger

I remember when the boys were little, I had charts for them where they would get stars for completing a responsibility or for good behavior.   They would look at the picture chart and be able to understand what they were supposed to do.  It was VERY helpful for me, because that way I wasn't having to say, "brush your teeth" or "comb your hair" or "pick up toys"...etc.

It is more complicated with children who have  trauma, or are diagnosed with RAD or PTSD.  And it is way more complicated when they are so very young is some areas and older in other areas. 
Trying to be sensitive to emotional needs, respecting their age, yet needing them to brush teeth is tricky ground to walk upon. :)

The immature child gives up on things very easily when they become frustrated. The mature child will push through a difficulty and learn from it.  Our goal is to bring the immature to maturity, without overwhelming.

We have baby chickens now.  Alli and Sarah are sharing the responsibility of keeping the babies, fed, warm and clean.  There is responsibility involved each day, but it is not hard.  It just consumes a bit of time and effort.  They did a pretty good job the first week. The second week went by well, but we are into the 3rd week we ran into a problem.
 One of the baby chicks died due to getting wet and cold. :(    There needs to be GREAT CARE taken to not get the area wet when putting in water.  I was showing both girls how to make sure no water would effect the bedding. One listened, one got angry.  And then and Miss Alli decided she was "quitting chickens"!

"No, maam. You may not 'quit chickens'. Those babies depend upon you for their lives! Mama does not give up on her children and you cannot give up on your babies!" :) This was the same day that she was having trouble getting dressed, hair combed and putting dirty clothing in the laundry.  She was overwhelmed..... WHY?  Because that day, she was really struggling, and was more 3 years old than 12.  I was treating her as a 12 year old.  She was giving me clues that I was ignoring, such as baby talk..... duh.... I need to pay better attention!

I went in and talked to Mike about it, and we both agreed.  Three it is! :) So, I did exactly what I would do with a 3 year old.  I switched things over to make her feel less overwhelmed.  I helped her along and explained things to her like I would have if she was 3. 

Guess what?  The anger disappeared, she was willing to try to do things differently and she mourned the loss of the baby chick.  She had a little funeral for it with Sarah. :)

I decided to make a small chart for her with some simple responsibilities and a box to check next to them.  Oh the giddiness of being able to check that box!

For a few days now, she checks off each item required. (these are things that have ALWAYS been required, but many times I have had to walk her through each one verbally ) 

1. Brush tangles out of hair (not just brush hair, but all tangles)
2. Eat breakfast
3. Get dressed
4. Put dirty clothes in laundry ( not in closet or under bed)
5. Brush and floss teeth  (with toothpaste)
6. feed chickens   (carefully)

So, even though many 12 year olds would probably balk at a "chart" as being babyish.  Miss Alli LOVES the chart.  She has been happy to follow it and check it off. 
And she is back to loving taking care of the chickens.

I have not assigned a "reward" with this chart. It is a simple guide for her. I think a reward would backfire.  For our little boys, after 100 stars on their chart, they would get a little prize.  For her, we have a new chart each day and the simple check mark is suitable.

It is amazing how such a simple thing can make such a big difference.  One of the biggest things for me, is that I don't feel like I am hovering over making each thing get done.  She goes to her chart and sees what is next and just does it.  We are going on 4 days now, and it is working well!


Allison said...

I have tween children with RAD and PTSD and am constantly reminded that they are chronologically far older than they are emotionally. We have the same difficulties with getting basic routine tasks accomplished. I used charts at one point and may try them again, based on your post. I originally bought three pieces of sheet steel from Home Depot, spray painted them my kids' favorite colors, then got on the internet and found free pictures of the various tasks, such as brushing teeth, making lunch, getting dressed. I tried to find humorous ones, like various animals getting their teeth brushed. After gluing trim to the edges of the metal, I arranged the pictures in columns down the left and right sides--for morning and afternoon/evening. I decorated the center with their names and some items they like, then clear-coated everything. We put them on their bedroom doors with a magnet to move from picture to picture as they completed each task in their routine. They put other things on the "magnet board" center, such as photos or good grades. Rewards would be counter-productive with our kids, since they use any reward/consequence system as a way to manipulate, rather than as a useful incentive.

Christie M said...

I agree, a reward would probably backfire. That is why we are not doing rewards with her either.

I like to surprise the girls with something now and then just because...:)

schnitzelbank said...

You can also show how YOU and DADDY also have lists to keep organized sometimes. Show her Dad's list of jobs at work, show her your checklist or shopping list. :) Sometimes modeling that even grown-ups need this support can be very reassuring to the tween who's not sure if she's a kid or a young adult. :)

r. said...

This post reminds me of when I worked in a call center during grad school. After I watched the requisite training video, I was sent to shadow another employee (a friend of mine) who had been there just a few weeks herself. As she checked her emails at the start of each shift, she would get so annoyed (and hurt). There were all these nitpicky emails from various people telling her what she did wrong. It was like she could never do anything perfectly enough for them!

You see, what was going on really was that there were about five things we were supposed to do (and document) after each call before moving on to the next one. And although they went through the steps once in the training video and and although our manual discussed each thing (in prose format, over several pages), nobody had ever made a convenient checklist of these things, or even so much as ticked them off orally during the training video. So no matter how thoroughly she thought she did everything, at least every day there were a few calls where she forgot to do some of these things, and so at the start of every shift the mood was set by a barrage of "you didn't do x" emails.

Fortunately I saw her struggle and went to someone with more experience and managed to come up with a checklist of these five things. I wrote it on a post-it note and kept that note on my monitor for several weeks. Before long I had internalized the routine and didn't need the post-it anymore--and I hadn't come to hate my job in the process!

Which is a very long-winded way of saying that sometimes getting the tools for success can make all the difference. :)

Christie M said...

r. That is very interesting. Schnitzelbank and r.,

I have to use lists for myself too. ESPECIALLY when I am doing something new to me or something unpleasant like paperwork.
I just got finished asking the Russian Embassy to please send me a numbered list of exactly what they need so I can follow their list. They did, and now I am not so overwhelmed. :)

r. said...

Agreed about needing the lists! I think helping your daughters learn what I need to succeed and not feel overwhelmed is going to serve them well.

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