Sunday, September 07, 2008

Consequencing Impulsivity -- Does it Even Make Sense?

It's been three weeks. That means it's time for Salinda to screw up again. It's been her pattern lately to be able to make it about 3 weeks and then do something stupid. Last night she was at a friends and knew she had an 11:00 curfew. I texted her friend at 7:30 to remind her of that because she said Salinda was napping (when they are together they have really weird sleep patterns). I told her that I would make no exceptions because of last weeks behavior.

So she never came home and each time I woke up in the night I had to go through the possibilities in my head. Her friend covered for her and she really took off again? She never woke up and her friend decided to just let her stay even though she knew I wouldn't like it?

And then I have to think about the next day. Will she show up in church or will she skip again? Is she even in town? When will she be back. And all those thoughts go through my mind one by one as I attempt to sleep.

And then there is the whole consequencing thing. The Probation Officer and her Mental Health Worker are just convinced that if I consequence her enough, her behavior will change. Her therapist and I arean't so sure. I mean good grief, she's been grounded multiple times in the past 2 years has had all kinds of privileges removed, been in an out of home placement, been in Juvenile Detention at least 4 weekends.. and she still won't follow rules.

The problem is, most of her choices might just be stupid impulsive ones. Now, isn't the principle of consequencing the idea that a child or teen faces a decision and then ... ding ding ding ding ding.... a bell goes off in their head that says "Last time I did this I got grounded. I don't like getting grounded. I don't think I'll do that again."

But what if the bell doesn't ding? Or what if, in a scrambled teenage brain, the consequences are weighed against the perceived thrill of the rule-breaking episode, and they would rather have the consequence. "I don't mind being grounded if I can spend time with my boyfriend" is a classic example.

SO my question to myself is this: Do I heap on even more consequences hoping that this will wake her up next time? It certainly never works. In fact, the more I heap on consequences the more stubborn she gets and it begins an endless war that makes life miserable for everyone. But I can't not consequence her or everyone is on my back for being too lenient. So I can't win.

And this is why it all gets so old. The constant attempting to find the "right thing" to do, when maybe there just isn't a right thing.

I know a lot of blog readers think that I don't consequence her enough... but I've been down that road and it is counter productive. For some reason with her personality it makes her behavior spiral to an unreachable places if I get the theory in my head "I'm just going to give you more and more consequences until you break." She doesn't break.

So if she doesn't show up at church, I face a day of tracking her down and deciding what to do about her choices. And since I am not impulsive and have a brain that is able to weigh all sides of a decision, I get to dedicate the majority of my thought time, most likely involuntarily, to deciding the best course of action.

But the hardest part for me is that it really hasn't mattered. It doesn't seem that any of the decisions I've made in the past -- whether they have erred on the side of too harsh or too lenient have changed anything. Her behavior, though still within the bounds of her probation most of the time, is still rebellious, impulsive and, if I can risk using a harsh word, stupid.

But I can't not deal with it. I have to come up with something. Sigh. Seems like a lot of wasted effort for nothing.


Deni said...

:( I'm sorry your life has to revolve around this daily. I can't imagine. No one is going to know what to do more than you and her therapist. I can tell you what worked for me when I was a wild teenager - but I'm sure you've already tried it. For her it may not be an option.

My parents put me on absolute lock down. Like in my room with nothing but a radio and I had to earn all priviledges back. There was no leaving the house with friends, I could come out and eat with the family and that was it. After I got my attitude under control with that, they added back another priviledge. I couldn't see friends unless they came to my house. They drove me to and from school. You have the advantage that if she tried to run, you have a probation officer to call. I got tired of being in my house for over a month, and that's when my changes began.

I don't want to judge your daughter without knowing her, but do you think she smokes pot? I ask this because if I had weird sleeping patterns as a teen, that was usually the reason. And it was my friends that my parents liked that were the ones I would do that with. My parents had no. clue. It was Eddie Haskell syndrome.

You have to be exhausted.

Sheri said...

IS she medicated? Maybe she should be. We have had great success with impulsivity decreasing with his meds. And then we use constant supervision, I know she is a teen, but as Deni said, when it gets old she may change.

Barb in No. WI said...

I remember when my dtr was 13-17 yrs old. WORST time of our (hers and mine, looking back) lives. Her therapist told me to not add on consequences or priviledge denials. There comes a point where it just doesn't matter to them because they have nothing more to lose. There was one priv. she didn't lose: time with a branch new mentor. No matter what that mentor did with her, she didn't lose that time. There were some limits of course to what the mentor could do (mall shopping wasn't one of them, but hitting the ski slopes was one). It helped relieve a lot of the stress. It wasn't a perfect situation, but it sure was better than a constant battle.
Have you ever considered a mentor? Or is that even an option?

Process said...

Can the consequence simply be that if she doesn't return by curfew, you notify police that she is a missing person, and let the police/courts handle it? That's what we require foster parents to do here.

As usual, my advice (not that you asked for it) is to work on the relationship, not the behavior. Consequence the behavior on the light side (consequences almost never work with teens) with whatever you've decided ahead of time, but focus the great majority of your time and energy on the relationship. It's relationship that changes people.

Deni said...

You'll always get 50,000 different opinions on this because everyone has a different belief about parenting. I have friends that think formula is poision and breastfeeding is the only way - even with adopted children. I have friends that do the attachment parenting and sling their babies for two years - rarely putting them down and sharing a bed with the entire family. Some experts agree on those things, some disagree.

Does she share your faith or is she on the fence? In my original answer I forgot to mention that church/youth group was the one thing that was not taken away from me. Now, there were a few youth conventions where I was the kid sneaking back behind the hotel to smoke... but eventually everything sunk in. I realized that not having freedom or trust sucked, and my jr. year of high school I did a complete 180. Here's praying for a 180 for her this year.

Torina said...

The probation officer is coming from the perspective of people need to be punished to change. The mental health worker is just a social worker with a different name. Nuff said. As for consequencing, unless you do something that you ALL can live with, as you have said before, you are punishing the entire family in addition to Salinda and that just ain't fair.

SO I am going to open my big yap. Before I read the comments, I was thinking something similar to a mentor. But more along the lines of community work. She is old enough to have a job but needs to learn that the world is a bigger place than just her. So why not require an hour or two of volunteer work a week? She could choose what she wants to do with your approval. Make sure that she knows it is NOT work crew but something that she is doing to make a difference in the world.

It worked wonders with Tara. She volunteered to help an old lady with bingo at the nursing home for one hour each week all summer long. She had a supervisor and we called it her job. She took it seriously (first time ever) and did not get kicked out. And she did a great job and learned to think a fraction beyond herself.

And if you find some sort of drug that makes teenage girls pleasant, let me know. Cause I will be all over that.