It is interesting what kind of behaviors don't seem to phase me as much with my kids with FASD.
It used to be, with my older kids who don't have their brains damaged by fetal alcohol, that I had pretty high standards for lying and stealing. If a child denied doing something wrong and I found out otherwise, that child would often get double the punishment. They soon learned that telling the truth, admitting their wrongdoing, and confessing before they got caught, resulted in much easier consequences. They learned very quickly not to touch the belongings of others unless they asked. And most of all, they were to treat their siblings and others with respect. And for the most part, they did.
Not so with my two youngest ones.
Even now, when "they should know better," they do things that could send me spinning.
The other day, Ms. D sat on some clothes fresh from the dryer that I had put on the sofa. I told her, "Don't sit on the clothes, please. They will wrinkle." She looked at me, still sitting on the clothes, and said with a straight face, "I'm not!" It sure looked like it to me! Remember, this girl is fourteen years old, not two.
But I have to treat lying like I would a two year old. My kids, especially Ms. D who has more brain damage, lie. It's not because they are bad kids, or because they haven't been taught better. It's not because they want to lie. They just do. Their brains don't work the same as most kids.
I'm pretty good at not asking questions that will lead to a lie. I don't ask who did this and how did that happen. I do my best to find the perpetrator and then just have them make it right. I tell them it doesn't matter who left the food out in their bedroom to rot under their bed. It has to be cleaned and I choose who gets to help. No hard feelings. No emotion. It's just life.
I also don't get emotional over stealing. Ms. D doesn't seem to understand that her sister gets upset when she wears her sister's clothes. We just take them back and tell her not to wear them again without asking. But it happens again and again. Ms. D just can't seem to learn. Today, when we were walking the dogs, Ms. D found a small ball in front of a neighbor's house. She started to bring it back to the car. I told her to put it back. It's not ours, and Brewster can't be around balls. Ms. D was upset that she couldn't have it and yelled, "But it's not theirs!" Really? How does she know? I told her again that she can't take anything that isn't hers without asking.
I don't even get all worked up about the swearing at each other, though I stop it as soon as I can. They swore like sailors when they were three and four, rarely did so later, but are at it again as they have hit the teen years. It is worse when they are upset about something. So instead of just addressing the language, I need to help them to calm down too. An upset mom doesn't calm the environment down a bit.
It is hard for people with FASD to follow through with socially appropriate behavior. They really do want to do what's right. They may know the rules. They may be able to tell you the rules. They may get upset when others don't follow the rules. But because of the impulsivity and lack of cause and effect thinking, they make really bad decisions. And they do the same stupid things over and over, no matter what happens. I have to tell them simply, without using too many words. I need to check to see if they finished a task, and not just ask. I need to not assume that because they shut a gate, did their math, or brush their teeth hundreds of times before, that they will do those things today.
I'm glad I have read that many people with FASD lie and aren't capable of doing what is right sometimes. They need an external brain. They need others around them to keep them out of trouble. They may look capable, but they are operating at a different level than they seem. My kids may be teenagers physically, but emotionally, morally, and mentally be at a much younger age.
So instead of getting all worked up about lying, stealing, and other such things, I need to carefully guide, protect, and help the children with FASD, just like one would do for a young child. It is a hard road to walk, to help the children learn yet modify their environment for success. I will make mistakes. I will get frustrated at times. But I need to remind myself that we are all doing the best we can with what we were given. And these kids were given FASD, and it's not their fault.