Definition of SABOTAGE
1: destruction of an employer’s property (as tools or materials) or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers
2: destructive or obstructive action carried on by a civilian or enemy agent to hinder a nation’s war effort
3a: an act or process tending to hamper or hurt b: deliberate subversion
Sound familiar? Do you have a saboteur in the house?
This is a very specific issue. A saboteur isn’t the child who is just struggling – it’s for the child who is deliberately choosing to inflict pain or daring his parents in a “see if I care” sort of way.
It can be very discouraging to a mom when a child seems to enjoy trouble, does the opposite of what they are told and repeats the cycle of disobedience in a way that makes you suspect they are purposely trying to hurt the family.
Hopefully they aren’t plotting a planning their own or your destruction (though some of mine tried).
Often this type of behavior is a response to some sort of painful memory or behavioral pattern established from trauma in the past. Self destructive behavior can affect the entire family. They often realize they are doing it – some want to quit but aren’t sure how and others enjoy inflicting pain because they think it makes them feel better – a sort of whacked, “pain loves company” mental state.
One of our kids was sure he would eventually be abandoned or kicked out so he set up scenarios where he would do something that he thought would ensure it or he would decide on his own that he was leaving. Even when we sat down and explored his options (running away meant no home, no food, no family and staying and working out problems meant family support, warm tasty meals, a warm bed, etc.) he still chose to run.
Of course we would veto such decisions but couldn’t always keep a close enough eye on him that he couldn’t slip out. We always got him to come back but eventually moved him into a children’s home. That’s a long story and I won’t go into that now. Just realize that sometimes reason doesn’t work.
Sometimes Discipline Will Work
BUT, in my experience practical parenting must coincide to form new habits and mindsets. In Parenting Tip #21, I talk about supervision. You start there. If you aren’t keeping a good eye on your kids there will be more room for sabotage. Idle hands and minds can get very creative in a short time!
See Parenting Tip #22. A mind set of messing with you won’t be easily changed. You’ve got to show them it is in their best interest to follow your rules, be respectful of the family and compliant.
The Big Guns Come in Parenting Tip #6
I give you some practical steps to take with teenagers who bully Mom (usually doesn’t happen to Dad). Some of the bullying is natural growth done the wrong way and it’s up to others to step in and show them how to become a man without stepping all over mom. It’s hard when there’s one parent, especially if it’s a mom. At that point it would help to have the support of a male role model. It could be someone like an uncle, older brother, neighbor, friend, husband of a friend or your pastor.
Let me encourage you.
These kids can wear you down and even make you think the problem is YOU making you think:
- You don’t love them enough
- You aren’t meeting his needs
- You are not patient enough…maybe you need to give them more space
- You just don’t understand
- You don’t do enough for them
Um. No. It’s not you. It’s them. Get a grip on these false feelings. Gather your courage around you like a flak jacket and arm yourself with some butt kicking confidence and attack this issue head on. The sooner you are confident, the sooner you will see progress.
Here are some things I learned along the way:
- Exude confidence. You must leave off all emotion when dealing with saboteurs. Act like a cop. No crying, begging or upset faces allowed, mom. A matter-of-face face is scary to teens. Scare them with your courage.
- Decide ahead of time what consequences will be for each particular behavior, write it down and post it on the fridge. A heads up for the transgressor will squelch many a misdeed. These kids are smart and very much into self protection.
- Find their hot button. Do they like computer games, have a fave show or does money speak to them? Get creative and remove or reward behavior. Sometimes rewarding others and leaving the offender out speaks volumes. “Hey kids, let’s stop for fries on the way home! Sorry, Joe, not you this time. Maybe you can reconsider the attitude while we eat our fries.”
- Research food allergies – sometimes in extreme instances allergies can create manic behavior. We had a son who went bonkers if he ate corn or in a corn field. Go figure.
- Provide a united front. Explain the issues. Clue everyone in. Let the whole family know what you plan to do and ask who is on board. We occasionally had family meetings where we asked for a show of hands. Draw the line in the sand and ask who wants to be on your side. This is serious stuff and you need to let everyone know “I GOT THIS.”
- Try to get a handle on their issues. When I discovered one of my sons had Asperger’s all made sense and I totally changed my approach. Do research. RAD is a serious issue that you might be dealing with.
- Don’t deal with this alone. We had little support and had to find our way with little help. Find a friend and share your issues – it always helps to have someone who knows and will support you if something goes wrong.
- Keep a journal of all happenings – EVERY DAY. You must protect yourself and journals help establish a timeline and important information that might be needed later. See Tip #12.
- There may come a time where their behavior is too intense for your family and you must separate them for the safety of all, including them. There are children’s homes and residential facilities equipped for the most difficult cases. This was always our last resort, but we did find the need for some of our kids. Safety is a common issue with RAD kids.
I’m sure there are tons more ideas that would help – let me know if you have any tips to add. We are in this together and no one should ever feel alone or abandoned.
NOTE: I am happy to say that all my kids have grown to adulthood and have carved out a life for themselves. I am proud of all of them and have a good relationship with most of them. We are hopeful that the others will come around and come back – for they all are valued, no matter what. Our kids have grown tremendously. When you consider how much some of them have had to overcome, you are in awe of their strength. Never give up on them. They are worth every effort.
Leave a comment if you have any to add. If you need support join our M.O.M. group. We get it.