It is currently Sat Sept 3rd 3:45 am and i am on night watch duty until 6:30am so please forgive me if this Blog is more unorganized and grammatically flawed than usual.
The Bigs have officially renamed the guys house “Shelterhood” due to the habitual “thugish” behavior that one would expect from those who are “from the block”. The only problem is that 95% of our kids are middle to upper class whities from Suburbia.
Today, well technically yesterday was probably one of the longest days i have had at Shelterhood. Did the normal gig in the morning, wake up, walk the littles to class and then go to training till lunch. This is where things started to get interesting. First, our training for the last two days has been called “Love and Logic” and i will touch on that in the next section. Second i cut down a 100′ tree with a chainsaw (felt pretty good). After walking the kids back from school i started to do “work hours” for people who had consequences who wanted to start working them off. This week i have the littles chop wood and carry wood to be chopped. After 3 days we have a stack of split logs almost 3′ high and 8′ long. Apparently, in the past no matter how much wood has been chopped they always run out after a month. My goal is to be able to make it through the whole winter without running out. After about 1.5 hours of work i took a couple kids who were not PG (property grounded) out to the mall. One of the kids wanted to get some new earn gauges but i couldn’t take him unless i had at lease four kids total to take to maintain coverage number. (coverage is basically the number of littles divided by the number of bigs. The idea is that we don’t want to leave any big having to cover more than 4 littles by themselves. If i had gone to the mall with just the one kid who wanted to go it would have left the other big having to cover 7 kids.) So i go to the mall and it ends up being this whole debacle because the one kid who actually had something to get at the mall was PG but got a special exception only to buy the ear gauges. After we got them we were supposed to meet up with another big who had already taken several littles to a Chinese buffet. The problem was that since that one kid was PG he wasn’t allowed to eat out as part of his consequences and i couldn’t just drop off the 3 non PG kids and maintain coverage, so i had to drive back to property. Once i get back I realize that me and dan( another new big) are the ONLY staff in the entire boys house, the hall director had left property to pick up fast food for the PG kids to eat for hall night. So the two new bigs who have been here for all of two weeks are left to cover all of the most delinquent. (3 littles where property grounded for fighting, and the other three had over 5 work hours of consequences and or drug offenses). The three other littles who were with me who were not PG were super edgy because they were starving but we couldn’t leave until the hall director got back to give those kids their allowances to spend of dinner. Basically it was a perfect storm. Before i know it i am sitting in the main room by myself with 7-8 littles and i have no idea where the other big is. As the conversation in the room starts heading south despite my best efforts to alter its course i realize that i am quickly loosing control of the situation. I discreetly stand up and look outside the front doors to see if i can find the other big and i find him sitting outside with one little so i peek my head out the door and ask him come back inside so we can maintain proper coverage. Just as this is happening all of the kids in the main room jump up and run out the side door yelling “Jail break”. This of course sets off the alarm system, which causes me to look back and realize all of the kids are gone. My heart sinks and my first thought is holy crap all of the kids are making a run for it. So of course i chase after them to see two kids running behind the house and i follow them back into the house. This apparently was supposed to be some kind of joke. Now if i was in doing youth ministry back in boulder and all of the kids jumped up and yelled “Jail break” and ran out of the building it would have been funny. Heck lets be honest i probably would have been the one who started the whole thing but in a Class 3 group house who in the past week has had two kids steal a van, 3 kids start fights it a little harder for me to laugh. After finally getting to go out for dinner i returned to even more craziness mostly caused by one new kid who climbed up onto the ceiling rafters, used the F word a good 40 times in the stretch of an hour and refused to stop talking about how much he loved to do drugs. After racking up a solid 12 hours of work consequences in the course of 2 hours he was still on a role and tried to make it clear through his EMO attitude and choice language that he “doesn’t give an F*&k about the rules”. At this point me and Dan (the other big) decide to go to plan B which was our creative consequence of confiscating all of his hair equipment (hair dryer, straightener ect) that he needed to maintain his EMO lifestyle. After doing this i found out that there is a strict protocol about how and when things can be confiscated as consequence and so he ended up having to sneak it all back into his room before he noticed. But now we know the back up plan. Basically it was a crazy crazy day that was made even worse by the fact that i had night coverage right after all of it. Thankfully i have awesome bigs like Kerry and Courtney who make me laugh and let me vent my frustrations.
LOVE & Logic
its now 5 am so my mental faculties are starting to shut down, but i still wanted to share a little about the training we are getting because this topic has honestly been the most helpful thing i have learned and i have applied it hourly.
Love & Logic is actually a parenting technique and it is basically one of the cornerstones of the shelterwood program. The basic idea of it is that you never force a child to do anything, you simply offer them choices, inform them of the consequences and allow them to make their own decisions. A good example that one of the videos gave was different ways to get kids to go to sleep. The first is to say, this is your bedtime, you must be in bed at this time, don’t come out of your room after this time. The problem with this is that i leads to power struggles and worst case having to actually force your child into bed. The Love and Logic mentality is that its easier to wake a kid up then to put them to sleep. All you do is say at this time you have to go to your room, you don’t have to sleep, you don’t have to have the lights off, you can do whatever you like, BUT im waking you up at 6am. You allow children safe opportunities to fail and suffer either natural consequences (being sleepy because you stayed up all night) or assigned consequences (being grounded). One of the best parts of it is that it takes a lot of stress off of the parental figure to control the actions of a child. Its like using mental Judo. Judo is a martial art that (correct me if im wrong) focuses on redirecting the opponents momentum and throwing them off balance instead of punching or kicking. Love and Logic works on the same principles, it avoids a direct confrontation which leads to a power struggle and instead focuses of redirecting the child’s frustration.
here are the top ten techniques we learned.
1)wait untill calm
2)Stop talking sooner
3) Lock in empathy
4) Listen and agree
5) Problem for Child
6) Its not YOUR problem
7) Offer choices
8) consequences only (both +/-)
9) Don’t warn or remind
10) Don’t justify or defend
We worked on 2-4 by practicing one liners such as “I hear you”, “I know”, “So what are you going to do about that” . While i thought it was extreemely corny and stupid at first i have said probably 2 dozen one liners today, and they work. It was amazing how saying less was so powerful. A kid was freaking out and mouthing off about “Oh all these teachers hate me” and “This Big is out to get me” or “this sucks, its totally unfair” and i just said “I hear you, what do you thing your going to do about that?” and he was like, “i don’t know” and walked off, and i was like BOOM situation DE-escalated son, thanks for playin. All of these tricks are extremely important because pretty much all of these kids are smart and really manipulative and if you don’t give a short neutral answer they will twist words, gang up, lied, cheat and steal to get their way.
In other news, turns out the two runaways ARE in fact going to return to Shelterhood (dramatic music). Don’t know all the details, but sounds like completing Shelterwood is now a court ordered matter, so they basically get to choose between our program and 3 to 5. (thats 3 to 5 years in Juvy)
Love you all, thank you for your prayers.