Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Going Back To Basics

I have often joked with friends about the joys of having a teenager and all their mood swings and attitude that comes with it. I foolishly thought that would never happen with my child. We have a great relationship. We have an open and honest lines of communication. Jordan has always gone along with whatever goofy plan or project we were doing. I've always treated him with respect and avoided talking down to him. Jordan has a good head on his shoulders and has always been goal orientated. He keeps good grades at school and has been planning the steps he needs to follow to get into the college of his choice and to follow his dreams to become a computer programmer.

Literally since his 13th birthday he has been making gradual changes to fit the typical teen mold. At first the attitude showed up in full force. He and I had a chat about how just because we hear about the dreaded "teenage attitude" didn't mean he needed jump right on the band wagon. Soon his attitude cooled and I had my reasonable child again. Recently his attitude is back, this time he's not doing it for show. The rebellion is there too. Thankfully it's not nearly as bad as it could be. Really, refusing to brush his teeth isn't going to hurt me any. (Why is that one of the main things for teens to do? They all seem to feel having gunky teeth and funky breath is acceptable. Yuck!). It broke my heart during our last bucket list when Jordan started opting out of our activities. We try to plan activities that all of us will enjoy and some of the ones Jordan opted out of are things he enjoys doing, like family game day. I had excepted most of these things and accept that they won't last forever. He's attitude towards his younger brothers has been less than kind. He stopped accepting responsibility for his property and his actions. I needed him to understand just how not okay this was.

When his behavior in class started to go south along with his grades.  Assignments weren't getting done or turned in. Homework almost never came home. He picked up the habit of taking things just because he wanted them. Nothing major just swiping things that belonged to other family members. Then there was the hiding of and lying about taking the objects because he knew it was wrong. He has tested out using "little lies" over little things. I understand that middle school age is when kids start messing up. I remember all the trouble I caused when I was younger. While its part of growing up and figuring out who you are. I want to keep Jordan from doing things he may regret when he gets older (like dropping his GPA drastically), or tarnishing his relationships with his brothers.

I have tried informal talks about his behavior, then formal "sit down we need to talk" talks, taking away privileges and haven't seen much change. I figured I needed to try something more drastic to make sure he gets the message he's going astray. I didn't want him feeling like there's always the threat of losing something; that good choices equals more privileges. I was informed that Jordan is the only 13 year old in America who does NOT have a cell phone; I know I'm a heartless mom :p

I thought maybe the lines have become fuzzy about what was expected of him. We have a list of house rules that have been in place and posted for years, it seems they're more like just part of the decor now. I sat down and wrote out a contract for all 3 boys, outlining exactly what was expected of them and the consequences for not upholding the end.  So while he was in school I rid Jordan's room of everything except his bed, dresser, desk, and his books.  I went old school and setup "star charts". He has the opportunity to earn back all his stuff by maintaining his responsibilities. The younger boys still have their toys in their room because they have been doing well and losing a privilege is still working with them. I made contracts for all the boys so Jordan didn't feel singled out and they were a good reminder for the younger ones.

After school I sat down with each of them one-on-one and went over their contracts and chart.  They all signed that they agreed with the terms, some more readily than others. The general gist is maintain your responsibilities listed on your chart. If you skip 3 things you lose a privilege, if you have no privileges to lose than you have one week to complete either a book report or history report determined by mom (I try to get in education wherever I can). If you complete the week with no lost  privileges or reports you earn back a privilege (or an additional privilege if you had not lost anything). Taking things that don't belong to you (no matter how insignificant) and lying (even the little white ones) result in an automatic report.  I'm also not a fan of assigning chores, that everyone just helps out because we all live here, but each boys was assigned two chores a week, that will rotate every two weeks. The chores as been an added blessing, because I get a break from doing dishes for two weeks :)

The point of the "star chart" was to get them back in the habit of completing things that have slowly been slipping away. Example: Jordan had not been bring homework home so one of his responsibilities was to bring all school books/folders home everyday. That way he was sure to have the materials he needed to complete his assignments. After little over a week he was in the habit of stopping at his locker to gather his books. He now only has to bring just the materials needed home, unless he starts "forgetting" again.

I've had our contracts and charts in place for about a month, they seem to be helping. There has been a couple reports turned in to mom and privileges that had been regained and lost again. Sometimes while trying to help our children find their way, we have to go back to what had worked in the past. Jordan is working hard to get back on track so he doesn't have to do the little kids "star charts" (No, I don't actually put star stickers on Jordan's chart).