While I continue to run around, working more jobs than I have hands and keeping everyone and everything headed in the right direction, M3 has been busy in her own right.
First on the list of things keeping us busy? Loose teeth. Yep. We just seem to be having a clearance on baby teeth in this house. Between M2 and M3, we have quite a contest going.
Many people we have run into have provided the unsolicited opinion that this means M3 is definitely older than five and we should rethink our plan to have her paperwork modified next month when we go through the readoption process. I usually just bite my tongue because I've grown so tired of explaining and reexplaining to people that things like teeth falling out or even early puberty are not unheard of things for kids with early childhoods like M3's. Go from limited nutrition to all kinds of nutrition, multi-vitamins, clean water, etc. and your body will kick into overdrive in certain areas of development. Losing teeth "early" is quite normal and is not a cause for alarm. Nor is her unbridled hair growth which amazes me more than the loose teeth. M3 will likely loose her other front top tooth within the next week or so. M2 just lost a lower tooth last night, so they are tag teaming each other with the tooth pulling, it seems. The poor Tooth Fairy should probably just put us on her flight plan for the foreseeable future.
Kermit the Frog may have lamented it wasn't easy being green, but for elementary school kids, being green might not be easy, but it certainly is good.
For those far removed from the behavior modification set or who have kids in school that don't use this method, it's pretty simple. Each child starts the day on green. The goal is to remain on green the entire day. If, however, a child skates past the verbal warning of a teacher and it becomes apparent she isn't willing/able to modify her behavior, she will be told to move her clip to 'yellow.' The clip will move to 'red' if someone just cannot get themselves together or if the infraction is severe enough to warrant leapfrogging over yellow altogether.
During our early days of school, we noticed a trend that M3 could not seem to go more than two days without being some other color than green. We had a couple yellows and one red (this was a first for me as a parent and I assure you, I did not handle it with a smile which made me feel horrible when I learned the actual circumstances of the 'red' and found myself less than impressed by the way the situation was handled), but never a span of three green days in a row. So, that became the goal we set for M3. Three green days in a row and she would earn a trip to the Dollar Store. M2 earned her trip last week (M2 has been on green since school began) and M3 was quite perplexed as to why she was not handed a dollar. I had carried the calendar with me so she could see for herself that she did not have three green boxes in a row. M3, as she does so often, seemed nonplussed by her lack of reward and went on about her business as if her ability to earn a reward did not rest solely on her shoulder.
This week, however, M3's teacher said the magic word--SUCKER. Yep. Teacher promised a sucker to anyone reaching Friday with only green cards to show for themselves. I have mixed feelings about the candy, but it was nice to see that M3 set her own goal and attain it. She went the entire school week on green and could not have been more pleased with herself.
Don't get me wrong--kids in this house eat candy. For M3, though? Candy, gum, chocolate, etc. was "love" and "affection" and "attention" and a food group before coming home. It is also food, albeit it a treat now and the exception rather than the rule, and we do not use food as a reward here because food in M3's world is such a charged concept. I worry that we will never find another 'lever' for her and her behavior as long as candy remains such a strong pull--honestly, it is about the only lever I've seen that works for her, but it's one I refuse to pull. I guess if she wants candy once a week and the only way she can have that is to behave at school, there are worse things.
I learned plenty of things through adoption training, personally assigned reading, communicating with other adoptive parents and researching on all kind of topics to know that making M3 mind and meet even our most basic expectations would be a completely different endeavor than it is where M1 and M2 are concerned. We were on top of it discipline wise when she first came home. We were extremely vigilant and very creative in the way we dealt with her boundary pushing.
Then, my husband hurt himself, our world turned upside down and I found myself gone more than home many days and woefully incapable of maintaining the much more time consuming method of designing a response to every single pushed boundary M3 could devise.
This past week, though, with my husband returning to normal and our realization that we were being played like a fiddle, we decided we needed to return to the ways we'd been instructed to produce change in our household. I believe M3 pouted more during the Friday through Sunday period last week than she had the entire time she's been home. And, where she may have previously pushed boundaries with one or two fingers prior to this past weekend, she went full force with her entire body into those boundaries for about 72 hours. But, after that, we've noticed a real difference in behavior and I believe we are back on track to maintain some order, enforce boundaries and encourage the attachment that needs to occur for this little adventure to be successful.
To put it in a nutshell, M3 (and, incidentally, other older adopted kids) are extremely adept and attuned to figuring out those around them and figuring out the buttons they can push that will drive each individual absolutely insane. And then, they commence pushing that button regularly and add in others for a little spice. The job of the parents is to figure out how to put the kibosh on the behavior, even behavior which doesn't necessarily qualify as 'bad' behavior.
For instance, M3 likes to make you repeat yourself. A lot. Not a broken rule, per se, but very annoying. She enjoys 'forgetting' things so that she can have someone's full attention for minutes at a time to remind her--you know when she's acting coy and smiling while you're reminding her of things that you are being played. She also loves to have you assist her in doing things that she can easily do herself and to feign incapability to receive one-on-one attention rather than realizing she will receive that attention learning new things with which she actually does need help. Her favorite person to hit up for help with things (aside from schoolwork) is M1--need a snack? Bug M1. want a cup for your water? Bug M1. BUT, always ALWAYS wait until M1 is otherwise engaged in something and obviously busy.
That's where the different discipline method comes in -- The goal of this type of behavior response is to create a situation where your buttons are not being pushed and you create a situation in which, even if this child continues engaging in the behavior, they are not 'winning.' This takes creativity and energy and patience and vigilance--all things that have been in short order since June, but now we're on it.
A good, solid example would be M3's unladylike habit of grossing out her sisters by emitting bodily sounds--in their faces. Horrifying, I know, especially when the usual routes of stopping it have not worked. With our reenacted policy, the response is swift and consistent. A parent accompanies M3 to the bathroom and on the way says, "WOW. You must really like to pass gas/burp/make other noises because you are doing it all the time and you're really good at it. In our house, we can [name behavior] all we want, but we do it in the bathroom--now, go on in there and really stink it up. I'll be back in five minutes to see how well you've done."
You want to see confusion?? This is it. First and foremost, we've removed the attention she receives from the behavior. Second, we're now encouraging her to do the very thing she was convinced we didn't want her doing. So, if she does it, she's doing what we want and what we've specifically asked her to do (which is the exact opposite of her goal for engaging in this behavior in the first place). Third, if she goes into the bathroom and refuses to gross herself out, she has stopped the behavior we wanted stopped (which is the exact opposite of her goal for engaging in this behavior in the first place). It's quite the Catch-22. But it works. Thank goodness.
In other news, she's already talking about snow and being excited about it. We showed her pictures of all the snow from last year when she asked us what snow is--and now, she's asking each day if it's going to
snow. She has no true concept of time, so has no idea what a month is and she doesn't know seasons either so we can't explain that summer is leaving, fall is coming and then winter.
Maybe, though, this will actually help me look forward to snow so the constant request for it will stop? Um. Doubtful.