Monday, August 23, 2010

Discipline stinks sometimes


Whether it's with kids, pets, or myself, discipline can be a tough row to hoe.  I've run up against all three today, and it's been a bit of a marathon, I must say.  But, the alternative is not pretty; it's not even tolerable.  So today I'm the bad guy, enforcing the rules of respect and cleanliness for my kids, and trying to break a cat of a very bad habit (again).

The kid stuff is partly just good old fashioned kid crap (attitudes and sibling rivalry), and partly our son's autism issues (inflexibility of routine, and overreacting to having his routine upset).  Sometimes it's really difficult to tell where the pre-teen crapola ends and the genuine Asperger's issues begin, and there's a considerable amount of overlap in the behaviors.  I feel like I'm always walking a tightrope, trying to discipline what needs disciplining, and trying redirect and relieve things related to our son's AS, and having to decide in a split second what really needs to be addressed, what's really going on (the attitude, which is intentional, or the AS, which is not).  That's exhausting, to tell the truth.  Add sibling rivalry into the mix, and things get really snarled up.  Then I have to discipline the younger one for her behavior/attitude issues, and she doesn't have the excuse of AS - she's just a typical girl, who's figured out how to get her brother's goat so well that the goat in question has frequent flier miles on the Annoying Little Sister Express.

Compared to the kid stuff, the cat stuff is small potatoes, but no less frustrating.  One of our cats, Sophia (she's almost 14), was really traumatized by our move last year, but minded her manners except for the occasional mess in the basement all year.  Last month we went away for 5 days, and although she and the other cats had the run of the house and all the food/water/clean litter they needed, she was really upset that we were gone.  She let us know in a very smelly, offensive way.  Since then, she's gone back to the scene of the crime regularly and made a mess in the same spot.  We can't have her doing that, but we aren't willing to give her away or take her to a shelter.  We've had her since she was a kitten; she's ours.  So, after trying a number of ways to control her access to the area she keeps going back to, we've decided to put her in a large cage (with litter, food, water, and a comfy place to sleep) whenever we have to leave the house. (Keeping her in the basement just resulted in a very messy basement - ick.)  She can be out if we're here to watch her, but if we go out, she goes in (to the the cage, that is).  Tonight is her first night in the pokey.  She's quite upset, and of course doesn't understand why we're doing this to her.  I hope she'll get used to this routine after a while.  Listening to her cry is no fun at all.

Oh, and disciplining myself?  I've discovered that well over 80% of any behavior modification program involving my kids actually involves modifying my own behavior first.  Everything from my body language, to my words, to my attitude has to come under my own discipline before I can effectively change my kids' behavior.  That's hard work, and to be honest sometimes I really resent it.  If they'd listen the first time, I wouldn't have to go through all the difficulty of changing how I approach situations involving their behavior in order to best change their behavior.  Being the grownup in the equation is the pits, sometimes.  In fact, I'd rather act like THEM more often than I'd like to admit.  Sometimes I have acted like them (please don't ask me how often - it's embarrassing to admit how long it's taken me to figure this out), which never results in anyone's behavior changing for the better.  Darn this maturity thing, it's no fun at all.  But, it generally works.  Over time, it works.  And someday, hopefully, I'll have two reasonably well-mannered, well-adjusted, socially-acceptable, mature adult children.  It's just that looking at them now, at almost 9 and almost 12, that day seems very far away indeed.  I have to keep reminding myself that I was no paragon of maturity at those ages either.

Just ask my parents.