Monday, October 8, 2012

Doing it Differently

Guide dog puppy raising and raising children with FASD, RAD, and past trauma have a lot of similarities. You basically have to toss a lot of what you know about raising dogs and children out the window. There are specific ways to respond to situations that are counter intuitive, and things that work for your average dog or child may create a lot of problems.

We had to go to classes and read up on how to raise both the puppy and our foster/adopted children.  I am thankful for the training and support we received. It has prevented a lot of mistakes, though we still don't do things perfectly. There is ongoing learning we still do in order to keep up our skills and help us along the way. Even though after we adopted I am not required to attend classes and trainings for the kids, I still do a lot of reading and research on how to best raise and teach my children. We go to puppy training classes every other week for Brewster and read the manual just about daily as a part of our homeschool. We went to another puppy class yesterday.

Guide Dog Puppy Class


Brewster Getting Fitted With a Gentle Leader
Another similarity is that in raising both the kids from hard places and with the puppy, there needs to be very a very positive style of dealing with different situations. We had a friend over who saw Brewster grab a sock. She suggested that we say no, take away the sock, and give him an old one to play with. That would work with most dogs, but we are to save "No!" for only the worst of situations, like running into the street. Picking up a sock needs a different kind of correction. We also can't let him play with any clothing, since this could lead to him being dropped from the program if he plays with anything other than his own toys.  We need to praise him a lot, but there are only certain situations where he gets a food reward. And the reward is just kibble from his regular rations. No dog biscuits for Brewster!

With both, we need to praise more than correct. Now that is pretty easy with most kids, but when your child is raging or destroying things almost constantly, it's pretty hard to find things to praise and be positive about! I remember making a "Say it Nice" chart when we first got the kids. I'd put a sticker on it if they basically didn't swear or yell for things they wanted, but asked and talked with nice words. The whole sticker chart wasn't very successful for the kids, since in their RAD state they really didn't care about stickers, rewards, or pleasing me. But it was good for me as a parent since I needed to listen for improvements and not get hung up on the f-bombs. And you know what? Within just a few months my kids forgot the swear words. I was so happy one day when my three year old called me a dumb ab! They quickly learned more socially acceptable ways of expressing their frustrations, since I would ignore the swearing and respond positively to when they did things right.

There are other things that are similar with the guide dogs and the kids. With both, they need to be by us pretty much 24/7.  My daughter and the rest of the family need to be always aware of the puppy and train him in some way throughout the day. We need to make small adjustments to his behavior. Some of the things we've needed to do almost from the start is to have him relieve himself at a certain place in the back yard on command. He can't get into the habit of having accidents while out on walks. We have to be very careful of what toys he can have. He can't learn to play fetch or play with balls because that would be dangerous when he is a guide dog. But pull toys are great! He has to be next to us to play with those. We have to be very careful to not give into the tiniest negative behavior. He can't play with other dogs or relieve himself while he has his jacket on. He can't even bark! Brewster needs to be in tune to us, and we need to be in tune with him.

Raising kids with RAD, FASD, and past trauma is similar. I have to be in tune with the kids, even after all these years. I've learned the subtle cues that tell me they are beginning to get dysregulated. If I catch the small indicators that they are escalating, I can often prevent larger problems. I need to anticipate what will be a difficult situation for them and be ready to make changes. I am more protective of them, and try to keep them from dangerous situations. My normal way of parenting is to give my teens a lot of freedom. It just won't work with the youngest two. They have needed to be held closer to our family. We don't have time outs, where they go alone to their rooms. We have time ins, where they follow me wherever I go. Well, they follow me almost everywhere. They don't go into the bathroom with me. That is my refuge!

I think the biggest similarity between raising a guide dog puppy and raising kids adopted from the foster care system is the focus on building a close relationship. A guide dog puppy needs to learn to be interdependent, and so do people. Yes, there are certain behaviors that need to happen in order for both to socialize and grow up to be a working adult. But those take second place to the love connection. And with adopted kids with RAD, FASD, and past trauma, that is one place where the similarities to guide dogs fall apart. The love connection is much harder to develop in the children who have been hurt so deeply, but is needed even more. I pray that they will be able to learn to love and be loved in a healthy way. And I will do all I can to help them.

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating connection. I so appreciate hearing practical ways you parent your kids--it really helps me with my own perspectives on parenting.