I had the joy of being with my daughter’s family this last week. They are an “entwined family”….2 children from Dad, 1 from mom, and now the new addition …who is all of theirs. Erinn is the only one in the family genetically related to everyone else. The little “missing link.”
The kids are happy and creative. I enjoy watching them invent activities and scenerios during their play. Eventually, though a “meltdown” occurs.
Someone gets frustrated. There may be tears, a teddy bear may be thrown in frustration, and then the dreaded “timeout” (1 minute per year of age).
At one point during a game of Angry Birds (my first experience with the board game version) a meltdown occurred due to one of the “pigs” not having a hat. As one child grabbed the hat off the other child’s pig, a punch was thrown.
And sadly, as awful as the punch was of itself, it grazed Dad as well as the intended sibling. This of course led to the dreaded “time out.” The older granddaughter was devastated to be placed on “time out,” and reluctantly headed to the bedroom wailing.
After a few moments I wandered in for a chat. It was time to explain the concept of restorative justice. I explain this day after day to the juveniles at the facility I work at. If you harm someone or steal their belongings, you are responsible to make it right.
If you don’t manage your anger and monitor your impulses, eventually someone else will.
You are responsible for your choices.
I explained to her that she chose to punch her sibling. This is wrong. She must complete the timeout. She appeared to understand the concept and completed the timeout with no further “drama.”
I wish it was that easy with the boys at our facility. Many have never been given an example of appropriate behavior per society’s rules. (Don’t harm, don’t steal, don’t lie, go to school, pay your bills, care for your children.)
Many have had to visit their parents in prison. Some have never met their fathers, and others are glad theirs weren’t involved in their lives. Many of them have seen their moms struggle to care for them and provide food for them.
Eventually the boys adapt their behavior enough to leave our facility. They make good choices; they complete their GED and/or the required high school courses; they say the right things.
And they return to the same homes they came from. I see them change while with us. I probably see them at their best ever — 3 meals a day, going to school, getting a full night’s rest.
They walk out the front gate, and I cross my fingers and hope.
They aren’t afraid or too busy to re-direct, explain and enforce rules.
It can be frustrating and overwhelming at times…but they are building character and moral integrity with their children and it should never be taken for granted that this is the way of all families.
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