Consistency is the Key!

posted in: Large Family, Special Needs | 16

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Consistency is the key to good parenting

 

Consistency is the key to good parenting, am I right? Set limits, and keep your children within them. Have clearly defined rules, and enforce them. Encourage the good behavior and discourage the negative. It’s all rather simple, isn’t it? It is the way we parented for well over a decade. Everyone went to bed at the same time and everyone ate the same meals. Those days are long gone, replaced with (it often seems) a different set of rules for each child. Then we added children with special needs, which makes consistency (in the traditional sense) impossible.

And it isn’t easy.

Bedtime is Bedtime:

Back in the day, when we had ten under ten, people used to ask how I did it. My simple answer was: bedtime. Much like my friends who relax with a glass of wine in the evening, I knew if I could make it to eight-oh-five, I could chill. Read a book in peace. Pee without an audience. Maybe even have a snack. Now we have kids ranging in age from four to seventeen. Heck, I go to bed before some of my teens most nights. And Apollo, who will be five next month, is just now going to bed in his own bed (with a sibling) at bed time. And it only cost us this Ninjago Anacondrai Crusher…and months years of hard work. 

Baby steps, I keep telling myself, baby steps…

Meals are Non-Negotiable: 

We absolutely unapologetically trained our children to eat what was put in front of them. It took patience, work and consistency, but we did it! In fact, I wrote  a blog post about it, way back in 2007. Long before the terms: failure to thrive, g-tube and double aortic arch were part of my vocabulary. Now of course, we’ve never been able to do that with Apollo. We are still just happy when he puts food in his mouth. Well, Mordecai thinks if Apollo doesn’t have to eat dinner, he shouldn’t have to either…And Avi, while she would never skip a meal, doesn’t think it’s fair that Apollo gets to eat whatever he wants…

Temper Tantrums/Fits/Rages

Well these need to be nipped in the bud, no question about it. After twelve years of nipping, we haven’t made an ounce of progress in Mordecai’s rages. Nope. Chair throwing, screaming, kicking, wall punching, we have it all. And more. Okay, so we haven’t managed to get rid of his rages. The problem is he has younger siblings who look to him as a role model, Apollo in particular. Recently he has tried out a few Mordecai-esque rages, and it hasn’t been pretty. Apollo’s, we will nip in the bud; Mordecai’s we just try to survive.

Very Limited Media and Screen Time

Limiting media and screen time has been a foundation of our parenting philosophy. Unless you: are recovering from heart surgery, being tube fed six hours a day, dealing with chronic fatigue, etc. Apollo has had more screen time than all of our other children combined. He has also logged hours and days and nights in the hospital with limited mobility. You can only read books, play with play dough and play peek-a-boo so many hours a day. The kicker comes in with Apollo watching a movie…he can’t watch them alone, yet I don’t want my other kids to be watching movie after movie….do I choose one child to watch with him? Or throw caution to the wind and let them all rot their brains together?

Consistency is Complicated

These days life is complicated. I can’t have one set of rules for everyone. Most of my kids understand this and are okay with it. Mordecai and Avi, due to their special needs, have very inflexible thinking. They can’t understand why the rules are different. Mordecai’s FASD makes him very dependent on routine, structure and the same thing day after day after day…if we break that routine once as a “treat” it throws him off completely. The “treat” becomes the new norm in his mind, and he is angry when it doesn’t happen. Avi, with her attachment issues, can’t stand to see grace extended to anyone else…and Apollo? He’s only four, and it is confusing to him as well. Especially when he sees his older siblings act in unusual ways…

So each day is a new experience, a new challenge. I’ll tell you one thing, it sure makes me flexible in my thinking…and sends me to my knees in prayer.

 

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16 Responses

  1. I’m having a day where I have absolutely lost it with my kids over and over again, so I was slightly worried that this post was going to make me feel even worse about myself and my parenting. I should have known better. Thanks for not being preachy and judgey — this parenting gig is really difficult. Thank God for grace — and the opportunity to practice it in our family relationships.

  2. YES YES and YES! We once went to a psychologist who actually said if we were having the same expectations and disciplining our children all the same exact way it was actually a disservice to them. That all children ( even neurotypical) have different needs. We had already caught onto this. Yes, it was important to us that we all sat for meals especially dinner when Dad is home….but what happens when one child just is incapable mentally/ physically to sit for the duration? Do you ruin everyone else’s dinner by forcing them and restraining into a chair or do you let them play quietly an adjacent room and maybe eat in a more quiet environment later?We chose the latter. It is tricky when those children happen to be the oldest and then another is one of the youngest. Yes, you said it exactly…some you nip in the bud…others rages you “just survive”:)

  3. All so true! When we started out as parents we thought that there was one way to do things, that it was the “right way” and we were going to it that way, no matter what. Three kids later, we can see how wrong we were! Our philosophy now is to find something that works and use it until it doesn’t and then try another way. What worked for one child might not work for another. And really, we’re making it all up as we go along.
    Thanks for sharing everything that you do!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Amber, I am still learning the lesson of going with the flow and changing things away from my perceived “right way”. Especially when that “right way” worked so well with my older (typical) kids.

  4. I understand your struggles with the differences in Mordecai and Avi’s viewpoints. What you said about how one treat out of the normal throws him off and he expects it. That’s the struggle everyday in the special ed classroom. Do I want my students to go to the Halloween parade and trick or treat class to class? Of course I do! But is it worth it? When we are back in the room at 11:15 AM and expected to survive another four hours with 14 special ed kids (ALL of which are affected by the change in morning routine on some level) and expect them to perform as normal?

    I’m not saying you did anything wrong or ever have with Mordecai, I’m just sympathizing. It really is hard. We want so badly for them to have those treats and out of the ordinary fun experiences. But are they fun for them? At what point is the consequence of it too severe for it to be fun anymore?

    I appreciate the way you talk openly about some of your struggles specifically when talking about your special needs kids. Awareness is so important. I’ve had fellow teachers accuse me of not ‘loving’ my students because I wouldn’t let them out in the morning for ‘field day’ (they bring bouncy castles and circus treats and things like that to celebrate the last day of school). I let them out in the afternoon so we could put them right on the bus when they were done without forcing them to experience the ups and downs of going back into the classroom and doing the normal routine. If we decide to skip an assembly it’s not because I want my students excluded, I just know that an assembly called “Scream and Shout!” isn’t going to be good for at least half of my students.

    It’s something I have to weigh often. It’s something you (as the parent) have to weigh constantly.

    *Standing ovation for mom’s and dad’s and grandma’s and grandpa’s and foster moms and step-dads like you (and everyone else who raises these kiddos)*

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Both Avi and Mordecai “missed out” on events when they were younger because they couldn’t handle the noise, crowds, etc. They would get over-stimulated and be miserable. It probably looked mean that we left them at home, but as babies and toddlers they were very sensitive. The “treat” thing is hard with Mordecai. He wants to have those special things, he enjoys the change in routine, except then, in his mind, it *is* the new routine…Glad to know you understand.

  5. Lindsay

    Replace some of your circumstances with step/blended family and I’m right there with you!

  6. I don’t have special needs children or a blended family, and this is STILL resonating! Ugh! For me, it might be that my life is too full but I have no idea what to cut out. Prayer is my way through for now, for sure!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Glad to know it is not just me. Sometimes this job seems impossible…

  7. I often wonder what true clinical diagnoses we would get if I was able to talk with someone about all the things we’ve experienced with my youngest daughter. Many of the issues Mordecai and Avi struggle with sound so familiar. She was diagnosed as ADD Inattentive type and Oppositional Deviance Disorder when she was 6 or 7. At the time, I thought just having names for what we were dealing with would help. I was wrong. Her father was diagnosed as FASD and adopted at age 6. It’s not even a remote possibility that my daughter was even FA Exposed so that’s not her issue but a lot of what I have dealt with with her, her grandmother says they dealt with with her father.

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  11. Mominator

    Your life describes my life….several years ago. I also have 11 kids, 32yrs down to 11yrs (almost 12 as my daughter would put it). We also have adopted kids. We also have special needs kids. Amen to everything you wrote in this blog. We finally got my daughter’s tantrums under control by giving her Taco Bell. The kid would walk across broken glass and hot coals for Taco Bell. She gets it every Wednesday…unless she gets 3 strikes. Hitting, kicking and damaging walls or furniture is an automatic out. It took years to get to that place. We started out with 1 hit = 1 strike. Now that things are better managed we have greater expectations. My biggest fear is that Taco Bell would go out of business. And then I would have to move to a pysch hospital.

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