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per the nurse, but the ‘beeping’ has gone away anyway. I blame residual ringing in the ear from all his Halloween escapades.

And no crying at school either.  In fact, no crying at all so far (but he hasn’t gone to bed yet.)  I think I’ll be able to work up a plan with the teachers to accommodate any emotional sensitivity without catering to it, by using the school’s sensory room.

And I got an appointment set up today with a new counselor for the kids!  The old one had some vague medical problem, so she’s not working for now.

Check, check, and check. Physical, emotional, and mental well-being ensured.

Four times in the past week, Aaron has cried.

THIS IS AMAZING.

Three of them were for injuries, which is a good start.  Normal kids cry when they get hurt too.

But the first time was after discipline!! Shock!  (The problem is, I was totally unprepared for it, and it was over a minor thing.)

Both Husband and I feel like we’ve made some emotional breakthroughs this week.

Should I try to figure out why, or just enjoy the ride?

It could be he’s settled in more (but he didn’t cry at his old foster home either).

It could be the new med he started (not ADHD meds, but another neurological type).

It could be he’s just matured.  My best guess is that plus becoming more comfortable with us.

I do still need to sit down with him and talk to him about his emotions.  I need to ask him directly what makes him sad and what makes him angry.  I need to ask him what he does when he is sad or angry.  I’m not sure he’ll know how to answer.

And do I dare ask his parents how often he cried at their home?  I wouldn’t be surprised if he is emotionally stunted because of his parents’ methods of discipline and communication during the first two years of his life.  And I don’t even know what those methods were, but I’m guessing they weren’t well thought out.

Actually, it’s a four-letter acronym.  ADHD.

First of all, let me repeat how weird and varied Aaron’s neurological symptoms are.  They seem to have affected him cognitively, socially, physically, and every -ly you can think of, but there’s no one diagnostic box he fits in.  And I finally saw his developmental eval from last year – they ruled out a lot.

On top of that, in the past six months, seven discrete entities have reported to his pediatrician on his behavior/symptoms, often times conflicting one another.

All I can say is Aaron’s behavior is NOT disrupting our home to a substantial degree.  He has his issues (clumsiness, repetitive questions, slow learning) but our household is not on edge because of them.  We have and will continue to handle his challenges no sweat.  His teacher also agrees that his behavior at school is NOT an issue.  And actually, his teacher, with 30+ years of experience, doesn’t even think he has ADHD.  I trust this teacher a lot too.

The ADHD initial consult was with his mom and dad.  If they reported to the doctor the kinds of behavior I’ve been hearing about from their household, there’s no doubt the doctor would prescribe something.  So now I get to find out if he’s going to stick with his diagnosis OR admit the initial problem might have been parenting and environment.

And if the doctor insists on prescribing something, I get to find out how much discretion foster parents get in refusing treatment.   Luckily, I think the caseworker leans more toward not medicating him unless necessary.

Aaron’s a mystery.

Apparently, he has no real medical diagnosis for his developmental delay.

I’m looking forward, sort of, to learning all about autism, neurological disorders, and what he has been assessed and evaluated for.  I guess it’s sort of a feeling like “Well, I’ll solve the problem! I’ll figure out what’s wrong with him!”  Never mind the myriad experts he’s seen in the past.

Realistically, I should just focus on his day-t0-day parenting.  For that, I’m relying a lot on Lisa, his former foster mom.  We’ve talked on the phone some more, and she is very helpful.  Luckily, she’s also a lot like me in terms of how she parents.

Unfortunately, it seems Aaron is not going to be as independent as I would expect most of my kids to be, including foster kids we’ve had in the past.

So far, I’ve learned he doesn’t really know how to pee in the toilet well (getting it other places besides the bowl, including his pants) and he has trouble with bowel movements, accidents and soiling.  He also forgets to wash his hands.  Ewwwwwwww.

Last night at dinner, we learned he doesn’t really know how to use a fork or knife that well.  He does try, but often holds them the wrong way and moves them in the wrong motion.  Given his way, it seems he would just shovel it all in with his hands.  Again, ewwwwwwww.  There was a lot of food on the floor last night.  And his hands….wow.  Did I mention he doesn’t notice when he needs to wash his hands?

Finally, there’s that trying too hard thing and the need for repetitive instruction.  One thing I really want someone to tell me is if it does any good when I, ahem, raise my voice.  Obviously, I’m not screaming at him, but if it’s third time in 30 seconds I’ve asked him to put away his book, does it help him if I say it more sternly?  It certainly doesn’t really help me, so if I can know that staying calm is more effective than revealing my feelings, I’ll try the staying calm route.  You know, because some kids do respond better if they realize the parent is frustrated.  Aaron doesn’t externally seem like that, but there is enough of a spark in his eyes that I wonder.

So, Lord, grant me some patience in the coming weeks.  I believe this placement could be a real joy in my life, as long as I can keep some perspective and remember I can’t fix everything.

So, I talked to Mark’s teacher.  The gist of Mark’s behavior problem at school is a self-soothing noise he makes.  It’s not constant by any means, and it doesn’t really bother us at home (it does get to me occasionally) but it is definitely something that is distracting the other kids.  So he needs to learn how to refocus it.

Mark’s teacher seemed to be think it was something Mark could control.  I suspected otherwise and his teacher is inexperienced, but I wasn’t comfortable just arguing with him.  (I’m always wary of being the mom who thinks her kid is special and doesn’t need to follow the rules.)  He wanted to set up a behavior plan with me right then on the phone, so I agreed to a 3 strikes sort of plan, but then got right back on the phone with the school’s counselor.

She backed me up that it is a self-soothing measure he can learn to control but in much slower, smaller steps.  She spoke with the teacher and he is going to switch tactics with us, but I hope I didn’t create an awkward situation.  I told him I didn’t want him to feel like I was over-riding him, but rather that I was just looking for ideas.  I don’t know if he believed me, but he acted like it at least.

Bad news today:  Phone call today from Mark’s teacher saying he’s having some behavior problems.  So why am I signing off on Mark’s planner everyday where the teacher comments “Great day today!”??

Bad news last week:  The kids’ parents lost their main income source.  Don’t know how this effects the case and/or reunification.  Or even visits.  Weather’s getting colder and free visit spots are hard to come by.

Another fit last night from Mark, but at least it made sense. After wetting himself twice after school, he pooped in his pants right before bath time.  I told him to go in the bathroom and clean himself up.  Thus, he threw another hour-long fit.

Okay, so I guess there is more to it than that.

He was already slightly upset because I let the girls (23 months apart in age) bathe together while I wouldn’t let him and Junior (37 months apart in age).  I floundered a bit in my explanation; after all, I couldn’t just say “No, because of problems in your past and therefore we can’t trust you won’t sexually act out here.”  So instead I ended up arguing with him on the details of the age and gender differences before I finally realized, duh, just to not let anyone bathe together.  I know it’s what we really should be doing anyway, just to be safe, but darn it.  That adds another 20 minutes to bath time.  That wasn’t the answer he was looking for though, so he got annoyed at me.

Then he pooped himself.  I didn’t pamper him, coddle him, or give him sympathy.  I said “Clean your bottom and then get in your bath.”  He spent the next 40 minutes crying and screaming that he couldn’t do it.  At various intervals, I went back in the bathroom and asked him why he couldn’t, but he didn’t really have an answer.  So finally, I made a choice that turned out to be a bad one.  I told him if he didn’t clean himself in 5 minutes, he couldn’t have the friend over on Saturday that he had invited.  That got him crying even harder, and in retrospect, I realize he was too emotional to react logically to that motivation/threat.  But you know, once ya say it, ya gotta follow through.

So after 5 minutes, I walked in, put him in the tub, screaming and kicking, and showered off his butt.  (The worst thing is that the drain is slow, so the poopy water started backing up, and boy, Mark didn’t like standing in that.)  After getting most of it off, I got him out, told him to clean up the rest with toilet paper, and he did, albeit crying and slobbering.  Then straight to bed.

And just as he got into bed, Husband came whistling in the door, fresh out of a class on positive communication with foster children.  He uttered a few magical words imbued with love and care, and Mark calmed down immediately.  I sat downstairs in the kitchen, trying to will my blood pressure lower.

So the interesting things here are two:

  • I’m not doing anything differently than I was the first week he was here, but I’m framing it differently.  The first week, if he had an accident, I spoke soothingly, told him it was okay, got him wipes, got him his new clothes, and generally stayed positive.  Now, I act unsympathetically, and have him do all the work.
  • This particular tantrum, I found myself getting fed up.  The zen patience was gone, and the cold, steely exterior kicked in.  I was sick of his behavior, and while I wasn’t going to yell and scream back, I was going to get hard.  It might’ve actually been better;  I’ve noticed when I’m too glib or calm while he’s upset he thinks I’m making fun of him or belittling him.  So it might have helped him to see I do have reactions, but he was too hysterical to notice.

Anyway, it was draining.  I hate to think of him this upset, because I doubt he was like this a year ago.  When I spoke with Mom about the first rage he had, she was shocked.  I don’t know how I’ll tell her about this.  Being away from his mom is screwing him up, and it makes me start to question his need to be here.  At this point, he’s safer in the state’s custody,  but…what? What am I trying to say?  I’m not really sure.  There are a LOT of facts unknown to me, and I try hard to trust the judges and case workers.  I guess entering foster care is just not fair, right?

And then the kicker on all that, this morning he woke up dry!  The first time in two weeks!

Mark still showed some residual signs of anger yesterday, but it seems he did all right at school at least.  BUT we did have another showdown at dinner, mostly centered on a small cube of potato that he refused to eat because he cut it in half.

(His argument:  “I can’t eat a piece that’s too big, but I also can’t eat a piece that’s been cut.”  AMAZING.  He should be a lawyer.)

So towards the end of the showdown, when all the other kids had left the table and it was just him and Husband, he had an ‘accident’.  The smelly kind.

Now, most of the time, his accidents do seem accidental.  They’re small, almost just streaks.  But a few other times, the timing and manner really suggests a vengeance poop.  And this was one of those times!  So I had him go upstairs, get new clothes, come back down to the downstairs bathroom, and clean himself up.  I meant to make him carry the poopy clothes back upstairs to be washed, but I forgot, so he’ll just have to do that today after school.

So really, it’s no skin off my back if he poops himself.  And Husband later told me he admired my patience when Mark does that.  Apparently, it really bugs Husband.

Anyway, Mark had to sit back at the table after that and finish his dinner, and about 20 minutes later, he did.  No theatrics or announcements, he just swallowed the potato, gulped down some milk, and left the table.   (I was spying on him.)

I’m glad he came through, because I was starting to doubt my decision.  He’d already had a rough day, and I don’t ever want to push a kid so far he enters emotional extremes/behavioral instability.  But now I know what he can do.  In fact, he even told Husband (about the potato): “I faced my fear!”

In Mark’s ideal world, he would play uninterrupted all day, and then talk to Mom for an hour or two right before going to bed.  Basically, his conversations with Mom are his lullabies.  (He would also get pizza and cake for all three meals, but that’s another story.)

So when, like yesterday, Mom has important classes to attend at his bedtime, and he’s forced to choose during the day between playing and talking to Mom, he gets perturbed.  And when bedtime rolls around and it really hits him that he CAN’T talk to Mom FOR REAL, he gets even more perturbed.

And then morning comes, and the camel’s back can’t take it anymore.

So that’s why Luke spent 45 minutes this morning screaming.   And why I had to carry him out to the car wrapped in a towel at the waist.  And why he was an hour late to school.

NOT because I wouldn’t let him change clothes in the bathroom this morning, like he’s been told not to do.

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And on another “Now THIS is foster parenting” topic, Mark and Nikki’s sister, Eliza (preteen), alleged something yesterday about her foster family that is pretty gross although not technically enough of a reason for them to have their license removed.  Mom is pissed off and probably going to push for Eliza to be placed elsewhere.  There might be an aunt or uncle who could take her, but if not, I know I’m going to be mighty tempted to offer our home.  There are many more reasons to NOT do that than there are to do it, and I don’t even know if Marge would allow it, but I know I’ll be tempted.