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.