"Babysitting" Teens of lax parents...and a bit of venting - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-17-2014, 05:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all,

 

This is a bit of a long, convoluted situation so I'll try my best to be as thorough but short-winded as possible. I'm in my mid 20's and I currently live with my aunt because she lives in a suburb of a major city that I relocated to a couple of months ago. I get cheap rent and to live in a house instead of an apartment and she gets a little extra income and some help around the house with my teenaged cousins. She's not divorced but her husband has a GREAT job in a different state that he wouldn't be able to find here. There's not much I have to do in the way of help since the kids are 15 and my aunt is a SAHM but it's been interesting seeing how two people who grew up in the same household (my mom and my aunt) have completely different parenting styles. The kids aren't "bad", per se, but they're undisciplined, unruly and lazy and it's very frustrating for me during the times I have to be their de facto parent; especially when she goes out of town. My aunt has always been the lenient parent and it seems that continued even after they relocated and she essentially became a single mom about 6 years ago. In the interest of privacy, I don't want to give too much away but the kids are multiples so I'll just refer to them as A, B & C. They all do things that I surely would have been disciplined for like talking back to or over their mother, complaining about things being unfair, locking their bedroom doors or sneaking and watching TV during the school week after being told multiple times that they're not allowed to, half-assing their one chores, etc. They are very rarely reprimanded with follow up and, as such, end up doing the same things over and over again with no consequences.

 

I'd originally written more about their personalities and the dynamic of the household but in the interest of space I cut it out so I could get to the reason for this post. I'll include it later if anyone asks. Anyway, my aunt will be going away for about a week next month and I'll be left in charge. This has happened once before and I fared well enough but the major problem during the whole time what that they've grown up with pretty bratty and entitled attitudes. For example, when I watched them the last time, my aunt called and asked if I could take them to a local burger place for dinner and she would pay me back since none of them wanted to "cook" dinner that night (these kids don't really know how to cook, they're mostly fed frozen or pre-packaged meals and none of them wanted to cook 3 days when the other two only had to cook for 2 days) or eat any of the leftovers. This is totally foreign to me because, in my household, if I didn't like my options I guess I just wasn't eating dinner that night. My mom was not going to bend over backwards and spend money because I was being lazy. Nevertheless, I agreed, told them about it and asked what time they thought they'd be hungry. B & C both said 7 pm but A said 5 pm. I said we'd compromise and go at 6 pm and A got mad and  threw a sneaker down the stairs. I told him to come pick up the sneaker but he just stalked to his room and locked himself in. At some point he called his parents and they told him what I say goes, but the overreaction at not getting his way was ridiculous. I don't respond to tantrums so I let him stew in room until he calmed down and joined us all downstairs for a movie. Before he was allowed to watch the movie, I made him pick up his sneaker and put it where it belonged and then I sat him down and told him that next time he threw a tantrum like that, he wasn't getting any snacks for the rest of the week. I had to point out to him that I was going to be using my time and my gas in my car to take them to dinner and paying for it with my money. This was treat for them. A privilege, not a right and that he should be grateful instead of throwing a fit. It got through to him a little but it was still clear that he was fuming at not being indulged.  

 

Similar things happened throughout the week: being mad that they had to eat a piece of fruit instead of ice cream for their after dinner snack, being mad that they had to finish all their homework that night before I let them watch an hour of TV (my aunt frequently lets them finish their homework while they're getting ready the morning it's due), doing their chore (weekly rotation of cleaning the kitchen) by just stuffing all the dishes in the dishwasher but not running it, wiping down the laminate counter with a wet sponge but not drying it, waiting until the last minute and then claiming it's too dark to take out the garbage, etc. I'd gotten them to shape up a little bit by the end of the week but of course that little bit of progress was undone once my aunt got back and rules went unenforced again.

 

So I guess my question is, how do you deal, either with your teenagers or other teenagers, that just don't think their actions have consequences? Do you have any quick methods of getting them to fall in line? I can't re-parent them in a week, nor should I have to, but I don't know if I have it in me to deal with 5 days of attitude and slothfulness in hopes of getting 2 days' worth of cooperation out of them.

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Old 03-17-2014, 07:22 PM
 
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The whole situation sounds really frustrating. To be completely honest with you, it's not your place to even try to 'reparent' teenage children you're keeping an eye on while their parents are out of town. In your shoes I would ask the mom for specific rules and punishments for specific behavior. If that doesn't work go for pared down expectations (drying a countertop that was wiped off is not something even I would bother with) and natural consequences. Taking snacks away is an elementary school age punishment and is sort of punitive. If they throw their shoe don't bother asking. Just pick it up yourself and put it away. They can wear a different pair of shoes since that pair wasn't important enough to keep track of. Locking a door when it was not appropriate to do so means the door is taken off the hinges or lock is disabled since they can't handle using the lock responsibly. Be calm and don't expect perfection. smile.gif
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:35 AM
 
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As above ^ You are "minding" them, not parenting them. If it helps, view your situation as a dormitory, where different lifestyles coexist, especially in shared spaces and routines. Think of your aunt's perspective - she would appreciate your help with her kids once in awhile such as taking them to fetch dinner on occasion and keeping peace in the household. Use humor, ignore behavior that isn't threatening anyone, and get the job done. The kids may even grow to respect and love you! You're in a tough situation but it can be a learning opportunity. Best wishes

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Old 03-18-2014, 09:46 AM
 
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In some ways it seems like the expectations on these kids are stuck at second grade.  How is a fifteen year-old not old enough to decide on his or her own what to have for a snack?  An hour only of tv for fifteen year-olds who probably need internet to do their homework is completely unenforceable, and therefore a bad plan to have as a rule.  But the snacks/tv kind of rules for this age group, by virtue of the fact that they're so hard to enforce, actually encourage sneaking around. 

 

I agree - you're not a parent.  Your job when you're taking care of them is not to make them better kids then they are, it's to hold the fort and be the reasonable adult on the premises.  Yeah, it would be great if they learned to cook and clean and do their homework responsibly, but you can't make that happen from your current position. 

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Old 03-18-2014, 12:38 PM
 
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You're their cousin! Be cool.

 

You can't tell a fifteen-year-old that if he throws tantrums, he won't be allowed to have snack time. That's something you would (maybe) tell a 4-year-old. No wonder they are acting up around you.

 

You don't have to take them out and pay for dinner constantly. Buy things they can fix themselves: lunch meat, bread, cheese, mini carrots, boxes of clementines, pasta and sauce. And tell them that food's in the fridge. Teenagers will just inhale whatever's there.

 

It's good that you are making them do their homework and their share of the housework. 

 

 

You're really coming down hard on your aunt for her parenting style, but maybe it was different from your mom's because she had triplets and your mom didn't. She had to deal with three toddlers at once, for instance... of course she was going to be a bit lax!

 

Your cousins are real people now, not models for practicing parenting. Make sure you're relating to them as people and drop the idea that you can make someone behave the way you want them to just because you want them to.

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Old 03-18-2014, 04:57 PM
 
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Another thought, on chores -

 

Teaching a child to help around the house is an investment.  You accept some disasters, and do the real work yourself later, because you know you're teaching the kid a life skill.  It's hard with single children, but it's doable.  With triplets, though?  Complete chaos.  When you add three pre-schoolers or kindergartners to a chore like washing dishes, you get far more then three times the splashing you'd get with one.  So they've probably had less practice at most chores then you did at their age.

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Old 03-18-2014, 09:48 PM
 
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Originally Posted by CuziK View Post
 

Hi all,

 

I get cheap rent and to live in a house instead of an apartment....., my aunt called and asked if I could take them to a local burger place for dinner and she would pay me back since none of them wanted to "cook" dinner that night..... I had to point out to him that I was going to be using my time and my gas in my car to take them to dinner and paying for it with my money. This was treat for them.

 

 

I really think you are out of line. You are there for the cheap rent and living in a house. In exchange, you were asked to drive the kids to a burger place. It wasn't a favor or a treat, it was part of your trade. And it wasn't your money -- you were being paid back.

 

I have 2 teens and I can't imagine telling them what and when they can have snacks, when they need to do their homework, etc. I think you should clarify with your aunt what HER rules and expectations are, and then follow those. Get over how you were raised -- it is completely and totally irrelevant. These aren't your kids, and you aren't a nanny. Yes, your mom and her sister are totally different. My sister and I have raised our kids completely differently, too. Big deal.

 

Part of the reason the teens don't respect you is because you don't have any actual authority in their lives, but you keep trying to act like you do, implying their mother is wrong, and they are brats. Unless you can let go of all that, this isn't going to work and you will need to find another place to live.

 

There aren't any quick methods for getting other humans to "fall in line":, but I find that with my teens, as will most people, being honest and authentic and really listening helps. Figure out what actually matters and what doesn't (a lot of what you are upset about doesn't matter) and then speak to the respectfully about how you guys can work together to make that happen.

 

A is a teenage boy, who most likely eats like a horse and is still hungry. Make sure he gets plenty of food, and don't let him go hungry. He throw the shoe after making it clear that he was hungry and wanted to eat and you told him to wait. Then you threatened to limit his food for the rest of the week. You owe him an apology -- he isn't some dog you are trying to train. This will go much better if you can take their individual points of view seriously.

 

How many nights are you cooking for them?  If 3 teens each cook 2 nights a week, that's 6 nights. Set an example, both in your actions and how you speak to them.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 03-19-2014, 12:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Woo, let me see if I can address everything so far. To clarify, any and all rules/punishments are house rules/punishments. I don't make them and I don't always agree with all of them, but I don't voice my opinion about them because they're not my children and this isn't my household so I keep my opinions to myself. I only enforce the pre-existing rules in ways established by my aunt. If they misbehave enough to warrant punishment, taking away snacks is the sort of level one punishment in this house. I think it's silly to have a dedicated snack time at their age, but again, not my house or my rules so I don't say anything.  If they continue to misbehave, no TV for them on the days they're allowed to watch (Friday - Sunday). Anything after that is usually a call to their father since he's the disciplinarian and he decides the punishment. 

Quote:

Buy things they can fix themselves: lunch meat, bread, cheese, mini carrots, boxes of clementines, pasta and sauce. And tell them that food's in the fridge. Teenagers will just inhale whatever's there.

 

Quote:

A is a teenage boy, who most likely eats like a horse and is still hungry. Make sure he gets plenty of food, and don't let him go hungry. He throw the shoe after making it clear that he was hungry and wanted to eat and you told him to wait. Then you threatened to limit his food for the rest of the week...How many nights are you cooking for them? If 3 teens each cook 2 nights a week, that's 6 nights. Set an example, both in your actions and how you speak to them.

 

This is yet another house rule that I have no control over. They are not allowed to eat as they please. They have breakfast, lunch, dinner and their two snacks at set times and those are the only times they are allowed to eat. When those times come, they have to ask permission to make their meals and for the allowed portion size (ie, "Can I make chicken fingers? How many can I have? Can I have fries with that? How much of the pan can I fill up?"). My aunt buys in bulk so most of their dinner is usually a family size frozen meal and they all have to agree on it because everybody has to have equal portions of the meal or they get upset about one getting more than the others. Same goes for snack time, snacks have to be approved. I was attempting to be flexible by giving them the option to pick their dinner time instead of going with the predetermined time of 6 pm but a compromise ended up with that time anyway. This was hardly the first time that snack time had passed but dinner time hadn't arrived and he was hungry but couldn't eat. Again, not my rules.

 

In reality, I know that they're teenagers and they're going to test their boundaries. I've been there, done that and given my mother gray hairs over it. I'm just trying to cut down on the amount of time it takes them to realize that they can't run roughshod over me like they do their mother because this is something they already know due to the years I'd watched them before they moved to a different state. I don't mean to indict her parenting because she really is a good mother, she's just lax. It's the way she's always been and she fully acknowledges it but these kids do know how to act right. When their father comes down, it's a completely different household and it's largely because they know he'll follow through on his discipline. I'm not expecting them to cower in fear but I'd really like to keep the tantrums to a minimum this time around. 

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Old 03-19-2014, 06:44 AM
 
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She's controlling food for teenagers at that level, and you think that's lax? She isn't. She's focused incredible levels of control on a very specific area.

You can't reparent, and you shouldn't undermine the parents, but as their older cousin who is in charge while their parents are out of town, I suspect you could buy a lot of affection by supplying chips and soda. If you want to avoid tantrums, avoid hunger. There are a few tacks I would take on the whole issue.

1. "I know your mom likes you to check in on this, but I have no idea how hungry you are. Are we going to run out of chicken fingers? Does anyone else want some? I put a grocery list on the fridge, so jot it down if we're running low."

2. "You're fifteen, I'm not enforcing snacktime. Just clean up after yourself."

3. "I am really tired of the pre-prepared stuff. I'm making (something easy and large batch - pasta with sauce, whatever). Want some? I'm putting the leftovers in the fridge in case anyone's hungry later."
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Old 03-19-2014, 06:58 AM
 
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In college, I was a nanny for triplets. I loved them to death, but it was the hardest job I ever had,
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Old 03-19-2014, 07:46 AM
 
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I only enforce the pre-existing rules in ways established by my aunt........

I disagree, if you were truly doing things the way your aunt does, there wouldn't be all this conflict.

 

I was attempting to be flexible by giving them the option to pick their dinner time instead of going with the predetermined time of 6 pm but a compromise ended up with that time anyway...

I see that as an error on your part. With 3 of them and a meal that needed to be eaten at the same time, there wasn't a chance for real flexibility -- they had to agree, which they can't. So you set them up for a conflict. Depending on how you worded it, you misled them about how much choice they had. The truth is that even though you were flexible about what time they ate, individually, they didn't get to choose. A. didn't get to choose, because he HAD to eat at time that the others could agree to, but you told him he could. Hence the anger and conflict.

 

I'm sure if you came into my house, you would see me as lax, but meals at my house are at set times because that is what works. Getting my kids to negotiate and agree to meal times would just be a set up for conflict.

 

 

 

You are dealing with 3 teens, not with children, and you have no real authority and are in charge for very limited amounts of time. You need to let a lot of this go, or find someplace else to live. The situation is what it is, and you aren't going to change it in a week (other than to find ways to peacefully get through the week). As long as you are trying to figure out how to "not let the them run roughshod over you" then both you and the teens will loose. Quite  trying to figure  out how you win, and instead work on figuring out how the four of you can get through a week together, which, IMHO, should include you cooking some real meals.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 03-19-2014, 12:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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 She's controlling food for teenagers at that level, and you think that's lax? She isn't. She's focused incredible levels of control on a very specific area.

 

You know what, you're right. I should have phrased it differently because I wouldn't say the rules of the household are especially lax. It's more like the enforcement of certain rules is lax, usually those where she knows they'll annoy her and continually complain about it and it maybe doesn't affect her directly so she'll let it slide. The food thing is largely a result of the household budget and her not being a very good cook (not a judgement, it's actually a running joke in my family) so she will not budge and they know that. It started when the kids were young and their parents were very worried about every being fair and equal, showing no favoritism, etc. They started buying things in bulk sizes or serving sizes that were multiples of 3 so no one kid could say "He/she got more than me! That's not faiiiiiiir! You like them more!" Now that they're 15 and growing at different rates and some are on sports teams, I don't think it's very practical anymore but I don't make the rules. Now if it's something like cleaning their room or bathroom? She'll go months without getting on them about it, even though it's supposed to be done every other weekend. This is usually where the talking back comes into play and the being fair thing comes back to bite her in the butt because they'll rant and how she's not telling A/B/C to clean their bathroom, you let them go this long without cleaning why can't it wait until later, blah blah blah. In theory, the rule is no talking back and you do what I say, when I say it. In practice, that doesn't always happen. 

 

As for the other parts of your post, I've been thinking about buying one of those jumbo size Hawaiian Punch bottles since they're generally only allowed one cup of non-water beverage a day and it'd be a nice treat for them. I am allowed to go outside the guidelines a little bit but she would like me to stick exactly to the food schedule and portioning, so I will. 

 

Quote:
 

I only enforce the pre-existing rules in ways established by my aunt........

I disagree, if you were truly doing things the way your aunt does, there wouldn't be all this conflict.

 

You've never had your kids react differently when a babysitter or family member tried to enforce a rule as opposed to when you did? That's interesting. I know I certainly did as a child and so did other children I've babysat in the past. Regardless, I think this harkens back to my response to MeepyCat in that I end up enforcing rules that they're used to getting some leeway on. I didn't say I do things the exact way my aunt does, I said I enforce the rules in ways established by her. Meaning that I follow the stage one and stage two punishments every time because I've seen with my own eyes that if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile. Not enforcing now means I'll get a "But you let me/him/her do it like this the last time, that's not faiiiiir!" later. She has no problem with this, the kids are the one's temporarily unhappy with not getting their way.

 

Quote:
 

I was attempting to be flexible by giving them the option to pick their dinner time instead of going with the predetermined time of 6 pm but a compromise ended up with that time anyway...

I see that as an error on your part. With 3 of them and a meal that needed to be eaten at the same time, there wasn't a chance for real flexibility -- they had to agree, which they can't. So you set them up for a conflict. Depending on how you worded it, you misled them about how much choice they had. The truth is that even though you were flexible about what time they ate, individually, they didn't get to choose. A. didn't get to choose, because he HAD to eat at time that the others could agree to, but you told him he could. Hence the anger and conflict.

 

I didn't let them know I was aiming for flexibility because, like you said, that would set them up for conflict. I went to both B & C in their rooms and said "Hey, we're going to get dinner from [place] tonight. What time do you think you'll be hungry?" They both replied, independently of another, with 7 pm. A was out checking the mail during that time and I started to ask him the same question as he was coming in and walking up the stairs. He interrupted before I could get to the second sentence and asked if we go at 5 pm even though it was already at least 4:30 and he'd just eaten his snack. He didn't know that his sisters had answered 7 pm but in my head I knew that 6 pm, the normal dinner time, was now the result of the compromise. I said we'll compromise and go closer to 6 and that's when he said "That's so stupid" and threw the shoe. He may not agree with my answer, but he does not have the right to throw a shoe in my direction, to not pick up after himself and to not be reprimanded; he would never try that with his parents and he doesn't get to get away with it because I'm his cousin. And he was told the exact same thing when he attempted to go over my head and complain to his parents. 

 

Anyway, I get the feeling that you think there's some epic WW3 tension going on in the house but there's really not. I enforce the rules when I can, the kids mostly listen to me and my aunt is grateful for my help. Problems really only arise when I have to watch them for extended periods of time and they think I'm going to magically turn into a different person and let them have a week long free-for-all, haha. They fell in line last time and I'm sure they'll do it again this time, I'm just wondering if there's a way to cut through the fuss on the first or second day. I'm also stuck between a rock and a hard place sometimes because my aunt would like me to help them prepare for dorm living since she never went away to college and it's hard to tell her that a lot of the stuff she lets them get away with would be a big problem in a dorm environment. They still believe I'm exaggerating the concept of quiet hours in dorms and think that if they're paying room & board, it's not (here's that word again) fair that they can't play music whenever they want, even if it bothers their roommate who is also paying room & board. This has been an interesting experience to say the least.

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Old 03-19-2014, 12:27 PM
 
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I would worry about a future dorm. Group flow usually makes things work out. And I think how their mother is doing things works for them and I wouldn't make a big deal about things that don't bother her.

Do people really dry countertops? I've never seen anyone do that.
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Old 03-19-2014, 12:40 PM
 
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It would not be out of line for you to make a comment to your aunt that the exact portioning thing that worked when the kids were younger is getting to be a problem, now that some of them are on sports teams and some aren't, and that they may be hitting growth spurts at different times.  Something like "A's been cranky a lot, and I think he might just be hungry.  He reminds me of how my friends in high school got touchy when they hit growth spurts.  I wonder if giving them all the exact same portions might be causing problems for him because he's hungrier then his sisters, and he's running around a lot for soccer practice."

 

Or even - "A was hungry practically all the time, so I taught him my mom's recipe for budget lasagna."

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Personally, I would have let the sneaker throwing go. He was mad and expressed it badly as we all do sometimes. That's just me. Sitting him down to lecture him probably didn't do any good because I'm sure he knows full well already that he shouldn't lose his temper like that. Letting little stuff go would go a long way towards building rapport with them, and building a rapport is the only way you can hope to have any long-term influence over them. 

 

Also I am leaning towards saying I wouldn't enforce house rules that I find ridiculous and overly restrictive, at least when dealing with kids of this age. It's not like when you're babysitting a little kid where they really need a consistent routine. I think a teenager can understand "Cousin K is here this week and she's going to be doing this or that differently in regards to the food, and then it'll be back to the regular routine when Mom gets home." Particularly since it's something that affects you directly--you are eating the food too and I think it would be justifiable of you to cook different stuff and buy different snacks for everybody. 

 

As for the noise level issues, or anything else that will get people ticked off at them in the dorms, I think that stuff will either sort itself out then or it won't, but nothing you do now is going to have much of an impact on that. 

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Old 03-19-2014, 02:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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 Do people really dry countertops? I've never seen anyone do that.

It's not really necessary if you squeeze the sponge out before wiping the counters down but for some reason they get the sponge really nice and soapy and then wipe the counters, leaving small puddles of water and all the suds behind. Ordinarily it wouldn't be an issue but this is a rental house and this has already caused some bubbling around one of the seams since the countertop is more like a layer of laminate over wood pulp like in the 80's vs. something solid like Corian. They're good about it like 80% of the time but there's a history there of not getting the full safety deposit back because of damage from the kids so she tries to stress to them the importance of not letting water get into the seams.

 

Thanks MeepyCat, I think I'll try something that out. It's been a delicate dance trying to figure out how to voice these concerns without it coming off like I'm telling her that she doesn't know what she's doing. The food thing is a very touchy subject since it's mostly budget related and that's not an area I feel I should touch on at all, but she also says things to them like "You need to stop eating so much" or "You're being greedy" if they sometimes ask for seconds. She's old-school and comments like that aren't exactly out of place in my family, but I feel very strongly about displaying that kind of food negative language to teenagers. I highly doubt the timing and portion situation will change as long as they live at home because this option is relatively cheap and allows her to keep the cooking she has to do to a minimum. 

 

Erigeron, it honestly wouldn't have been a big deal if he hadn't thrown the shoe. He'd been going through a throwing things phase at the time but the last thing he'd thrown was a screwdriver and it was at his sister's head. He wasn't trying to purposely trying to blind her, it was just the closest thing to him at the time, but his aggressive behavior was starting to get really out of line and his parents had to step up the discipline. He called his parents, not just because he was mad but because he was trying to get ahead of me calling them and telling them he'd thrown something again. He came out of his room after he calmed down about an hour later and I didn't reprimand him loudly or in front of the others but outside of the general "I'm the authority here" rule, I pulled him aside because I felt he needed to understand that he needed to respect me as a person. It's one thing to drop a shoe, it's another to hurl a high top sneaker down a flight of stairs in my direction. He knew that he wouldn't get a snack that night and that if one of his parents had been there he wouldn't have gotten snacks for the rest of the week, no TV on the weekends and no access to laptop which was his punishment last time he threw something. He did offer me a very heartfelt apology the next day and of course I accepted it, so it's water under the bridge now.

 

If it were up to me, I would lighten up on the things I don't agree with but, as I've said, that usually ends up coming back to bite you in the butt later down the road. I've learned through experience that if I play their ally or co-conspirator on certain things, they're much less likely to see me as an authority figure to listen to further down the road. Since my responsibility it to my aunt first and not them, I'll bend on the things she says I can bend on, but if she wants me to stand firm on something, then I've got to stand firm. Also, I don't eat the same food they do. There are a couple of condiments we share but I have an autoimmune disease that's easier to manage when I eat cleaner so I don't consume HFCS and I watch my salt and gluten intake.

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Old 03-19-2014, 02:47 PM
 
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So the problem wasn't that he threw a shoe at you, but that he threw a screwdriver at his sister earlier? 

 

Yeah, I would come down like crazy on the screwdriver.  Shoe, whatever.  Screwdriver?  OMG, I can't even.  I would be the terror of the earth on that one.

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Old 03-19-2014, 03:13 PM
 
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Yikes!  It sounds like the household rules are very inconsistent...the micromanaging of the food is strange.  Does your aunt expect you to enforce the same rules while she's away?  She's using the same parenting techniques that she used when they were little...

 

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I got for parenting teens was to consider yourself their 'advisor'.   You do have to ignore some bad behavior, but I think if you treat them respectfully they'll respond with respect (not right away, though...It will take time).  Can you imagine if someone told you when and what to eat?  It's belittling... No wonder they act out with their Mom.

 

As for the shoe thing I probably would have waited until he came back out of his room, sat him down and said very calmly 'I know you were very angry but if you have to express your anger violently I'm not going to be able to stay here with you.  If it happens again I'll need to have your Mom come home, and I'm going to tell her that.  I know it was done in the heat of the moment but I can't risk having you seriously hurt me when I'm responsible for running the house while your Mom is away.  Can you come up with some non-violent strategies to deal with your anger if this happens again?'  ...He would probably counter with 'I wasn't being violent!  It was a shoe!'... then you calmly say 'You threw something at me in a moment of rage. That is violent'.  End of that conversation (you wouldn't want to get into a 'what constitutes violence' thing).  He's not going to admit he was wrong, and he's not going to apologize (and you wouldn't want to force him to), but if you'd had that conversation I bet that would be the end of throwing things at you. 

 

Tell yourself that they're 'mini adults' (albeit ones with bad manners).  Imagine that you are the boss and they are the employees (for lack of a better analogy).  In their position how would you want to be treated?   

 

Good luck! 

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Old 03-19-2014, 03:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The problem is that it's generally not acceptable to throw things at other people. The screwdriver thing had been about 3 weeks prior. Before that he'd thrown other things, markers, books, water bottles, whatever was laying around. He was just really getting in the habit of throwing things when he got frustrated. First he would get a verbal warning, then stuff like no snacks, no TV, but obviously he got a much bigger punishment when the screwdriver thing happened. His sister was rightfully terrified and we actually ended up in a funny-in-hindsight situation for it. These kids are notorious for tattling on each for every little infraction but she was actually so shaken up that she ran upstairs to her room without calling her mom and just slammed the door shut. Turns out that she slammed the door so hard that the bolt on the lock missed the hole housing and popped out on the other side of the door jamb, effectively locking her in the room. She texted me about 30 minutes later after she'd calmed down and realized she couldn't leave her room. My aunt came back from running errands at the same time I got the text so I told her what happened and we worked on trying to get the door open. The eventual solution? Using the screwdriver he'd thrown the remove the knob from the door to let her out.

 

Since then, he'd calmed down and stopped throwing things until that day with the shoe. Like I said, if he'd just dropped the shoe it wouldn't have been a problem. But he was a step or two from the top of the stairs and threw one of those clunky Jordan sneakers down the flight of stairs in my direction. I wear glasses, what if he'd thrown the shoe and it broke them? Or it hit me in the head? Or knocked a picture off a wall (which it almost did)? It certainly left a small dent in the wall, something that will likely come out of the security deposit.

 

Edit since Caliope and I were posting at the same time: Yes, inconsistent! I've been brain foggy these past couple of days but you guys are coming up with the words I'd meant to use in the beginning. Your response feels right on track for me. I'm trying to toe the line between following their mother's wishes but also realizing that I was a teen not so long ago and I know what it feels to be frustrated at still being treated like a kid. A, for example, is on the track team this semester. He eats lunch at school around noon and then doesn't get home from track practice until 4, 4:30, sometimes later. It's totally understandable that he'd be HUNGRY but by house rules he's only allowed something small like a piece of fruit or a granola bar until dinner at 6-7 pm. That's a rule I'd gladly not enforce but unfortunately food rules are the ones she's strictest about. Thanks for your feedback and I think I'll use that approach if any of them act up this go 'round!

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Old 03-19-2014, 06:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CuziK View Post
 

 The screwdriver thing had been about 3 weeks prior. Before that he'd thrown other things, markers, books, water bottles, whatever was laying around. He was just really getting in the habit of throwing things when he got frustrated. First he would get a verbal warning, then stuff like no snacks, no TV, but obviously he got a much bigger punishment when the screwdriver thing happened.

 

Punishments, as you are learning, don't work in the long run because they don't address the root cause of the behavior.

 

Help him come up with a list of realistic things he can do when he is frustrated - real ways of expressing anger that keep other people (as well as stuff) safe.

 

Of course this kid has strong emotions. Dad lives across the country, mom is gone a lot, and he doesn't get enough to eat. Of course he is angry. Work in realistic ways to lessen how angry he is, and help him learn to express that anger in safe ways.

 

Don't tell him that throwing things is wrong and bad, but rather elicit from HIM why he needs to curb this behavior. He already knows. He needs a clear path laid out for him, but he already has the motivation -- he knows this will lead to no good place in his life.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 03-20-2014, 03:07 PM
 
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When they act out, act like a shocked, unimpressed friend rather than a punishing adult: "Dude, throwing stuff again? You gotta knock that off. It's pretty embarrassing for you."

 

When you're alone with them? Don't take away their snacks. Obviously they need their snacks regardless of their behaviour. Just forget about that rule.

 

I would never in my life describe a mother who took "snack time" away from her 15-year-olds when they didn't please her as "lax". I would describe that mother as "controlling and arbitrary". Don't follow her bad example. Just... keep a low profile and let the kids recover as best they can while their mom is away.

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Old 03-20-2014, 04:40 PM
 
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When I worked with teens I mostly just mentioned what needed to happen, presented options, and acted unimpressed but otherwise unphased when they acted out. I found that teens respond very well to being treated like capable people who may just need a reminder. I witnessed co-workers going head on over stupid crap and it was not effective imo for getting results and peace since it got nothing but an angrier child who was now loudly and belligerently refusing to do anything while also swearing.

I think you should bring up your concern about how little the kids eat, offer to stop by a foodbank or contribute more food, and consider calling cps if the food seems to be limited to the point where it could hindee development. A growing teen boy in sports can literally need 5000 calories to develop and not getting what the body needs to properly develop can cause some serious health problems just a little ways down the road. I personally would never follow a rule about limiting food and I would be open about why.
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