Sunday, August 30, 2009

Call Social Services!

It has been intimated this week that I am a bad parent. That my adherence to the rule that my eldest son tidies his room once a week is evidence that I do not love him and that I would rather put him through extreme trauma than nurture him as a proper father should.

Maybe I am over simplifying things (Lord knows there is enough of that around)... but I received some comments on my previous post that genuinely upset and offended me.

Now, it is not my intention to start a blogging war but I am upset enough to cast this debate open to my "wider audience". Because, who knows? Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am being over sensitive? Maybe I am reading things into the comments that are just not there? But I would genuinely be interested to hear other people's take on things.

If the thought of tidying his room makes my son have tantrums should we persist in such a rule? Does his possible aspergers diagnosis mean that different rules should be applied? Should we avoid all scenarios that he dislikes and completely avoid any possible upset and cause for tantrum?

I'm going to keep this post short as your response to it will very much depend on you reading the last 11 comments or so on the previous post. Now some of you may know the other blogger involved. Some of you may not. Either way I would ask that comments are kept polite and respectful and I apologize if there are any divided loyalties. But, in this case, I feel the issue is of more importance that the individual bloggers.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Steve I hope the previous comments didn't make you second guess yourself. I've been reading you a while now and see the history behind the posts and you are spot on. Kids, any kid, not just one possibly on the spectrum can't be excused all things they don't like to do, on the grounds that they don't like to do them. If I went that way with Kev, all he'd do is watch TV, read comics and do DS.
He hates to help out in the house but I make him, because he is a member of this household and we all have to pull our weight, he hates to go to school, but i make him do that every morning, regardless of the huge stonking tantrum he throws, he hates to take a shower,every few days I make him, he hates to change his clothes, I have to wrestle him out of them.
For example, the shower thing for a second.
I ask him to go in and to make sure he washes himself and his hair.
He'll come out and his head will be bone dry. I send him back in saying ' your head is bone dry, wash your hair please'
He comes back out, hair wet on top, still smells stale. ' Please go back in and this time use shampoo', he comes out there will be a small circle of bubbles on the top of his head where he has thrown a bit of shampoo and had a quick rub. ' nearly there, one more time, go back in, rub your head all over and then rinse the bubbles off' comes out, clean hair!
Takes about an hour.
Letting him not do anything he is averse to is not setting him up for the world very well.
There are dozens of things we don't like doing but we have to.
My other kids don't like washing dishes, or emptying the dryer either, but if you live here, you help out, that's the way it goes.
I think a point that might have been missing from the previous post is that it would be easier to clean his room yourself, let him sit around and do DS all day, you'll get some peace and quiet, but you don't take the easy road. Why? because you love Ben and you know how essential it is that he learn these skills.
I wont be calling CPS on you. ;)

Steve said...

MissBehaving: thank you so much. I'm still reeling a little bit about it all in truth but appreciate that sometimes it is useful to review things, take stock, check the wind direction, etc... and thank you for all the good advice you have sent my way in the past. Hearing how you cope with Kev and stay cheerful is always a real help and a genuine eye opener. It also reinforces on me that taking the easy, soft option with kids really does not pay in the long term... and when you are a parent the long term is often very close to you (as much as the immediate short term) because you know that one day your kids are going to go out into the big world alone without you around to help and you desperately want them to be armed with coping stategies and knowledge to be able to navigate the sometimes very scary waters...

Gina said...

Oh Steve. No-one can know what it is like to be a parent until they have been one. And no-one can know what works in a particular family until they are part of it.

We all make decisions from time-to-time of which others will not approve. Whenever anyone queries one of mine I do generally think about it a fresh (when I have calmed down!!) but I only change or modify what i do if I think it is right for me and my family. Occasionally people have fab and useful ideas.

I am not a tidying sort of person. My children get away with messy rooms until one day I walk in there, step on something that hurts my foot and then I get them in there and they tidy it. That is my approach cos that is the type of person I am - laid back about mess. About other things I am not laid back at all and they have a strict life (not much TV for instance and other oddities too like my foul temper!). That is how it is with families - they are as they are.

If anything happened to me I would be more than happy for my children to live with you - I think you do a fab job.

Someone once really offended me by questioning something I do and yet afterwards I thought perhaps they hadn't really meant to be offensive. I let my children go out alone to the woods and park and well, lots of places and have done since they were relatively young. Someone pulled me up on this, gave me a lecture on how they could be kidnapped, run over and mauled by dogs (all at the same time I expect) and then said "oh well, with four I suppose you can afford to lose a couple". I was incensed that anyone thought i gave my children freedom because I didn't care about them when the opposite is true.

Maybe the person didn't mean to offend you? I hope not. Because you are, Steve, as you know, the very nicest person I don't know.

Valerie said...

I have been reading the comments, Steve, and each day I wondered at how upset you would be. I felt upset for you.

Now, I'm a mother and a grandmother.I know about children. I did the course, long ago admittedly, but things don't change that much. Only parents know their own children, it is not for others to dictate how you do things.

Equally, children know their own parents... and they WILL try to outwit and manipulate ... if allowed. Obviously there are ways to deal with them and I firmly believe you're on the right trail.

Letting kids get the upper hand is NOT ideal training for the big world in later years and so long as parental methods don't involve cruelty they will learn the things that ensure a happy adult life.

Oh my, I've gone on a bit here. Sorry about that.

Steve said...

Gina: so lovely to see you here - especially under these circumstances.

"No-one can know what it is like to be a parent until they have been one..." - so true. Before I had kids though I would have disagreed with this (and frequently did, wondering why my parenting friends got so irritated) but now with kids of my own I can really appreciate the truth of it. There's a big difference between knowing the mechanics and living them... Thank you so much for the big vote of confidence. Your kids sound so lovely and your story about the little flags in the dog poo still makes me smile. I'm sure Wend was coming from a good place but the whole thing has really upset me. I've been under a cloud for a couple of dsys but feel I am coming out of it now. Thank you.

Valerie: feel free to go on a bit all you like, your input is very welcome, especially as you can see things from the grandparent generation. I almost think it's a kid's duty to try and manipulate his parents - as annoying as it might be at the time! It's all about learning to negotiate with the world and the people you have to share it with. But standing firm is so important - kids genuinely feel relieved to know where the boundaries are for all they may test them and push them constantly.

KeyReed said...

My God I was an odd child; I used to blitz my room regularly! But hang on, there was not a great deal in my bedroom when I was a kid. Bed, desk (for homework) train set (under the bed) cassette player, books, stuff in drawers, mecano, scalextric, brass rubbing kit [told you I was odd] and I forget what else. Everything had a place or a box to go in - which sounds like it/they does/do in your boy's room too. As I grew I moved room and the contents changed, eventually to include an upright piano. There never was a great deal of mess on the floor because I needed the space for the train set which was put away each time.
I am assuming that by 'clean' you mean 'tidy' and not that your boy should get busy with the duster and Mr Sheen or even the hoover.
I cannot help with the debate really [though I may send you an email later] except to say that if YOU have made a decision then nobody can question it; however it does now sound as if you will need a new tack. Call the process something else (personal space reorganisation); make a joke of it but don't, now, be seen to back down. Once children know they have you on the the run they have won. Also, try to avoid it being a 'performance' as you put it. All too easy to say from a distance; every family is different.
Full marks for expressing your upset so calmly.

Steve said...

Tenon_Saw: I do indeed mean tidy as in "put away" not hoover, vax and carpet beat! We're breaking it up into stages today - small morsels rather than a hefty main course all in one go. But the memory of last weekend's collateral damage seems to be keeping Ben's tendency to fly off the handle in check... look forward to the email.

Valerie said...

Steve, I forgot to say that the old prophesy still stands even in this mad and fastmoving world..... LOVE AND DISCIPLINE GO HAND IN HAND. It is true, Steve. Those two things are a child's security.

Savannah said...

G'day Steve. I'm so sorry I didn't comment on your last post due to being unwell but I must say, having read the comments, I feel quite incensed on your behalf. Even in the short time I have been visiting, your love for Karen and your boys is very apparent.

I applaud you both for sticking to your guns when the easy option would have been to give in and just do it yourself. You are showing your son more love by showing him how to live in the "real world" than by mollycoddling him and letting him "be a kid".

My sister is a peace pipe smoking, tree hugging, alternative mother who doesn't believe in raising her voice to her children or instilling any discipline in their lives whatsoever. As a consequence her 6 and 4 year old daughters are horrible, rude, obnoxious little brats. It pains me to say that about my own nieces but believe me I am not the only one who doesn't like them.

Unfortunately it will be those children who suffer in life, not my sister. She believes she is giving them a good upbringing because there are no rules or boundaries, nothing to stop their adventurous spirits. What she is actually doing is turning them into anti social, demanding little girls who think everyone will do as they say just because they demand it. I truly fear for them but what can you do?

You are absolutely doing the right thing for Ben and one day he will look back and thank you for it. Good luck to you, to Karen and to Ben. You'll be fine because you are good parents.

Steve said...

Valerie: I can recall my Nan saying something very similar.

Gypsy: thank you so much for your warm comments. I've seen families like you describe too - friends and kids of friends but, as you say, what can you do? We each reap what we sow and you interfere in the internal workings of someone else's family at your own risk. We certainly do our best for Ben and fervently hope that that best is good enough.

Old Cheeser said...

Hi Steve

Wow, what a debate! And I can see how Wend offended you on the previous post, though believe it or not I don't think she actually intended to. I don't even think she was trying to suggest that you are a bad parent (though I can see why you might have thought that); she just thought that (in her view) that you were going about things the wrong way.

1) As she's not Ben's parent she's obviously not in the best position to judge how to go about things - YOU are.
2)As you've already said she needs to put herself into your and your son's shoes first before making snap decisions.
3) You DO have to set boundaries with kids - the old maxim being "cruel to be kind" is true - for kids to learn the wrongs and rights sometimes you really do have to put your foot down. I should also add that I really to pity and sympathise with you having to put up with your son's tantrums - it would do my head in!! Riding all of that out to get to "the other side" must take some doing!

Leading on from that, I may not be (or probably ever will be) a parent, but as a practising teacher
I can see there are similar issues involved - particularly those mentioned in 3) above! With the students I teach I have to set boundaries - my expectations and rules as to how the kids should behave in the class, what is acceptable and what isn't, etc. I'm someone who finds that quite hard sometimes and I confess I'm not a natural disciplinarian...To use an example, one particular issue that it's been hard to be consistent on is students using mobiles in class. I just don't find it acceptable - one of the most obvious reasons being that the students are there to learn and progress and texting their mates, checking their messages etc just ain't relevant! However there have been times when I've "turned a blind eye" to what's going on which is bad I know but sometimes it's hard to police every single thing the kids do. ALso I think it kind of creates a less oppressive atmosphere in the class. If I spy a student getting out their mobile I usually make some crack and ask them (humorously) to put it away.

Erm - mmm, maybe that wasn't the best example, certainly it doesn't quite link to what I was going to say next!! What I AM trying to arrive at is this...

1) You are absolutely right to stay consistent on the issue of Ben tidying his room.
2) It WILL teach him to do things himself. Good point.
3) To avoid the recurrence of tantrums could you think of some ways to sugar the bitter pill? How about a few rewards? (Okay, not all the time as Ben might come to expect or rely on it).
4) Use some humour as I mentioned above in order to motivate Ben more?

Okay I've said more than enough and shall sign off now. Hope that was of some use...

OC x

Steve said...

OC: what a pleasant surprise and as always useful to have another voice added to the debate. I'm sure Wend didn't intend offense but, well, I've said enough on that score already. Your teaching insights are useful actually and humour often works where sternness doesn't... but sometimes even humour runs dry! However, as a household, we love a good laugh (who doesn't?) so it's always a useful tool to use. It's also nice to know that should Ben head too much off the rails we could ask Uncle Cheeser to bring him back into line. You were offering, weren't you? ;-)

The Joined up Cook said...

The problem with blogs and the comments they stimulate is that things can be said without any inflection. There isn't that body language to diffuse something; the nod, the wink.

All I would say is that you should stick with what you feel is right when it comes to 'parenting'

As Gina says we can't know what it is like until we have been one. You could take that further and say, 'You can't know hat it is like to parent - name your child here - until you have parented him/her'

I also think you are basically right in trying to maintain a standard. If a different standard is created for different children because of their perceived needs I see all sorts of problems arising.

I'm being very general here.

Steve said...

AWB: what you are also being is respectful and mindful of that you say in case it is misperceived - and that is very much appreciated. It is always best to err on the side of caution and you are right in your summary. I believe the expression is "horses for courses". I can accept that no real offense was inended but cannot deny that some was taken, however, life is too short to stew on such things and I've had a lovely day with my family - and that is the only thing I really care about. As is right. Hopefully my next post will see me back to my irreverent, irrelevant and inconsequential form...!

Suburbia said...

Hi Steve

I sort of don't want to get involved here, but I think that you are obviously an intelligent man who knows his child and whatever anyone else thinks is their problem.

I hope it's not getting you down too much, usually this bloggy thing is SO supportive (and thanks for your ever supportive comments at my place)

Take care of yourselves


The Sagittarian said...

Steve - you've run out of red wine haven't you! I can see how all this came about, and I'm sincerely hoping you're feeling better about it all. Kids don't half get you into trouble do they?! Like Gina, you seem to be one of the better parents that we don't know and I certainly support your stance. Cheers mate.

Selina Kingston said...

I feel really bad for you that you feel you have had to defend your position and in fact, your love for your family when actually you have said or done nothing that puts that in doubt.
We all have to do things in life that we don't want to ranging from putting the disgusting bins out to filling out tax forms and a whole host of other things that are just too tiresome for words. Learning that at an early age is an important lesson.
It is the children who are taught that there is no discussion about doing these chores that go on to be effective humans who take their place in society.
The ones who are "loved" so much that their parents daren't shout at them for fear they may shout back, or who aren't given chores because childhood is a time for "fun" become adults who don't know how to grow up and deal with responsibility.
Please don't stop setting boundaries or insisting that chores are completed or loving them the way you clearly and passionately do which is evident by how shaken you have been by all of this.
Carry on parenting your way - you're doing a great job because you're a great bloke!

Steve said...

Suburbia: I appreciate your stance - it's always a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you!

Amanda: what can I say? The whiskey had run dry and the absinthe was looking damned attractive in the strange light of the beer...! ;-) Cheers to you too, mate!

Steve said...

Selina: aw shucks! Thank you. That means a lot. This whole episode has made me doubt - albeit momentarily - the wisdom of sharing personal information online no matter how obliquely... but that's a sad route to take. I try to be as honest as possible on this blog and always honoured when other people do the same. Writing about all this has certainly helped and reading other people's take on things has helped even more. Thank you so very much.

French Fancy... said...

Well I began to read the comments and then got too annoyed on your behalf.I've read your blog for ages now and know that you and Karen are parents who love and care for your two sons. I won't say any more because I know it will upset some people.

Just keep doing what you are doing and everything will be okay. Kids need ground rules, parameters - all that sort of thing. I had a terrible temper when I was a kid and it is only since reaching about 40 that I've learnt to control it (51 now and more or less mastered losing it)

Steve said...

FF: thank you for your support... though I hope Ben learns to control his temper way before he's 40!

Nota Bene said...

Hey Steve,

Managed to read the original post, the comments and the second one too. I know nothing, but sounds like you're doing all the right things to least from my experience! As they say "Don't let the bastards grind you down" - the comments, not children, because grinding down is what they are best at!

Daisy said...

To be perfectly honest with you steve, as you know i have always been, i actually thought you to be a little lenient on the situation. His “almost” diagnosis, even if a full diagnosis does not excuse his behavior for one moment! I had a similar situation with my son years ago and ended up taking everything but his bed, dresser and clothes from his room…that way the tidying was not so difficult for him, and when he was able to tidy his room proper for a month, he was given ONE thing back to his room. This went on for a year, and it was grueling for us, but it taught him a valuable lesson and I would never go back on my decision. If you don’t stand fast in your rules how will your son ever learn that he is to respect societal rules? Much of the problem with people currently incarcerated is they were never taught this early, simple lesson and have never felt the consequence of such, therefore they continue to break it as an adult. GOOD FOR YOU! Stand up for your child, love your child and move on…that is what we as parents do. Do we make mistakes, yes, do our children get over it with the love we give them, yes! I deal with abuse and neglect all day, every day, and this my dear friend is not it (and you know I am not afraid to say when it is)…

Steve said...

Nota Bene: that's very kind of you - thank you. Sorry you had to plough through all that heavy reading!

Daisy: Ah, Daisy, I've missed you! If ever you fancy a career move as a Nanny can I please be the first to hire your services. I truly, truly love your style! Hope all is well with you...

Daisy said...

funny you say that steve...i am in the process of getting my visa for the uk and will be moving there hopefully by the end of the year...any services i can provide to you and your lovely wife i would be more than happy to...please give her my best and all :)

Steve said...

Daisy: America's loss is very much the UK's gain. :-) That's wonderful news. Is the move to be permanent?

Brother Tobias said...

I thought Wend's suggestion of 'cleaning the room with him' was a sound idea. I often did this with mine. It saves buying a mop, although getting the polish out of their hair afterwards can be a problem.

Steve said...

Brother T: what an excellent idea. I could put his hair into dreadlocks... I've always wanted to own a Vileda.

Daisy said...

i am still in the process of making that decision least i have options now to find what truly makes me happy

Steve said...

Daisy: I certainly wish you happiness whichever side of the pond you eventually decide to settle in.