We're trying a few new things over here right now. I have decided to start giving TLP allowance again. He is only getting $5.00 a week... and he does NOT have a chore list. All he has to do is help me when I ask... and do what I ask without arguing... just because, and because he needs to learn that he can trust me to always make good decisions for him. He also needs to learn that sometimes even moms and dads need a little help too... and that family members are supposed to help each other when they need help. Not to get paid... but because they are FAMILY. I know.... I make it sound so simple. It's not... and I know that. It takes a lot of talking... and reinforcing... and repeating... and it makes me really really crazy some days.
I find myself saying a lot of things out loud to TLP. To a normal parent... and to normal people (if there are such things as normal people)... I know it sounds a bit weird. BUT I still talk to him anyway. I say things like,
"It feels really good to help people, doesn't it."
"Wow... you are doing such an awesome job with that. It looks so good. I'm so glad I asked you to help me today."
I think it really helps him when I talk to him like that. I think it builds his self-esteem up and makes him feel like he is important in our family.
I am also giving him a chance to earn MORE MONEY... which he likes. Two days ago... I asked him to help me by cleaning out the van... inside and out. It was really filthy. You couldn't even begin to imagine how bad it had gotten. I told him that in addition to his $5.00 allowance that he would be getting on Friday... that I would give him an additional $10.00 if he wanted to spend some time cleaning that nasty dirty van. He was sooooo excited about earning that extra $10.00 and he took on the job, but we still had to supervise and walk through that cleaning process with him.
I went outside and opened all of the doors of the van and told him to grab a bag for garbage and clean everything out of it. He did well with that step.
I asked him if he'd like to listen to some music to help him relax while he was cleaning. He said that would be good. (I love music when I clean and it helps me forget that I am cleaning.) I ALMOST grabbed the key to turn on the car radio and decided that could be a really bad idea... me going in the house with TLP left with car keys. YIKES! See... I'm always trying to stay a step ahead of a potential problem and not try to set him up for any new problems. So, I went inside and got a portable CD player... put batteries in it (so he wouldn't electrocute himself with water and an extension cord.) See... I'm always trying to think things through first... always trying to prevent a problem from occurring. Maybe even a bit paranoid... but better to be safe than sorry and I have definitely had days where I was sorry that I hadn't stopped to think something through a little better first.
After I got the radio out there and WE decided what CD he would listen to... I brought him a bottle of orange disinfectant spray and an old rag and showed him how to spray down the interior and clean it. Then I went in the house to rest... with the kitchen windows open... so I could hear him working.
He did a beautiful job... without my help... but then I could hear him slamming something. I went back outside and asked him if he needed some help.
"I can't get it clean!!!!!," he said in a very irritated tone of voice. I immediately knew that he MIGHT be headed for a rage so I took the rag from him and offered to help.
"Tell me what you need help cleaning. I can help you," I said.
As it turned out... it WAS clean. VERY CLEAN! He had done an awesome job. BUT... he wanted to wipe away some scratches that were NOT going to come off no matter how much he washed and washed.
I washed that area myself... and said,
"Oh... this van is just getting so old. Look at all of these scratches. Oh well... at least it's very clean now. We can't do anything about those scratches except maybe ask dad to buy us a new van."
Then I quickly changed the subject about the scratches and we both dreamed about the idea of getting a new van... and what color we would want... and that conversation changed from getting a van to him getting a Corvette... and me getting a Jeep.
The van got clean... without a meltdown. That's all I wanted. He did it. But he did need a little assistance from me. I think that's how he will eventually learn to calm himself in time... and get a job done... hopefully someday without my help.
Instead of hauling out the Shop Vac... I decided it might be more fun for TLP and I to drive up to a gas station to vacuum out the van. I decided to give him the opportunity to take some baby steps by pulling my van right up close in front of the gas station door and letting him try to be a 13 year old for a minute. I told him that I would watch to make sure that he was always safe... but I needed him to bring $3.00 in to the cashier and ask for quarters for the vacuum. First, I asked him if he could handle walking in there alone. He said he thought he could. I told him to hop out of the van and try it... knowing that I would be watching him. He did it. I saw him looking around him as he walked inside. I saw him being very aware of who was near him and I could tell that he was nervous to be around strangers without me at his side... but he did it. He did it alone... and he was smiling at me when he walked back out... quarters in hand.
We drove over to the vacuum. Got out of the car... and opened all of the doors. Just as I was about to put three quarters into the vacuum... he said it.
"What are you scared of," I asked him.
"It's going to be really loud. I'm scared of the vacuum."
I knew that he wasn't just messing with me. His face told me that he was really scared.
"Take a few steps backwards and go stand by that payphone,” I said. “ Then put your fingers in your ears for a minute... and I will start up the vacuum.”
He stepped backwards. I could see him watching me. I could see him holding his breath as I put the quarter’s in.
As soon as the vacuum started up... I saw his facial expression relax. He took his fingers out of his ears. Walked up to me and said, "It's not that loud." Then he took the vacuum hose out of my hand and vacuumed the entire van by himself while I watched. He did A+ work and seemed to enjoy himself.
WE went back home so I could make supper. When his dad got home, I quietly talked to him about the van-cleaning job. I told him that TLP had one more thing to do before he was finished. He needed to wash the OUTSIDE of the van. I told my husband that he was in charge of supervising that part of the job... and he had a choice. He could get everything ready and help him wash it in the driveway with the hose... or he could drive him up the one of those quarter car wash places and show him how that works. They got into the van together and drove to the car wash. TLP learned how to wash the van with his dad and did an awesome job... and the best part was that mom got a little break to breathe.
Yesterday I handed TLP his $5.00 allowance and thanked him for all of his help this week. He smiled. Then I reached into my purse and handed him a $10.00 bill.
"You did such an awesome job cleaning my van and it looks sooooooooooo good. Thank you for deciding to help me out with that."
He smiled and took the money.
Last night, we went out to the store to buy a few things. When I got into the van, I reinforced everything by saying, "Ohhhhh.... it sure smells good in here today. It smells like oranges. THANK YOU for cleaning this. You did a great job!"
He smiled. He was proud of himself. He had done a really good thing... and earned a little extra money.
BABY STEPS!!!!! That's how it seems to work for TLP. Lots of baby steps... and knowing that he IS afraid of the world still. But I think that this family can help him work through some of his fears if we continue to take those baby steps with him... and quit expecting him to always be 13 years old.
Some days... I INSIST that he stay 13. I even say it to him.
"TLP... I need you to be 13... or we're going to need to leave and go home."
If he can act 13... we stay. If he can't... we go back home to take a few more baby steps.