Since the last week of June, I’ve been looking after the 9 year old boy on his own. His sisters remain in school until next Friday. By the end, that will be 4 weeks. Four weeks of hanging out with me, from 9 till 3, on his own. He doesn’t have any friends from his new private school that he wants to see- and his old friends are still at school all day.
This wouldn’t be an issue, if he was like his sisters- who love to spend time with me. Or like most other kids I know (outside of my volunteering). The problem is his negative attitude. If I suggest anything at all- it gets a firm ‘no’ in response. It doesn’t matter whether I’m offering a trip to the skatepark, a game of football outside, baking, drawing, creating or watching videos on http://www.thekidshouldseethis.com. (Which are all things he’s enjoyed in the past). The only things that get a yes are; lunch, battleships (only twice so far though), or anything with a screen. I therefore let him initiate his own activities, but this means that either he plays on the iPad for hours (something I’m not permitted to allow) or he is alone in his room for hours- then the rage builds up along with the boredom and the demands for a screen return.
Recently his parents have wiped the iPad of all the games and instituted a points system- the reward of which will be a game of his choice reinstalled. The trouble is that that kind of reward is too long-term for him I think. He also cannot control his anger and temperament in order to not lose points. Plain anger/upset would be ok but it’s destructive, violent, rude anger- for which I am supposed to dock points.
I am also supposed to ‘make’ him do piano practice, and maths worksheets each day. I can’t get this child to do a pleasant activity, or leave the house to get his sisters, let alone maths and piano! I have previously spent over an hour getting him to play the piano, and 20 minutes to leave the house as he refused to go. I’m ashamed to say I had to pick up his shoes, pull him over the threshold and lock the door behind me. It makes me feel like a bad person.
This kid needs someone bigger and better than me. Someone with a degree in child psychology. He needs help managing his anger, and expressing his emotions. He frequently has feelings of self-loathing, saying ‘I’m the worst, I’m so bad at that, I can’t do that’. He has perfection issues- his work must be neat and tidy at all times, and if he cannot do something it’s thrown to the ground and kicked, whilst he screams and shouts. The same response if something is denied to him. It is effectively a tantrum but on a different scale due to his age.
I recognise some of these feelings from my own childhood (such as loving your siblings so much that you squeeze them till they cry out) but these feelings are much more negative. He is also strong. He doesn’t like me, or want to be with me. I cannot hold him, help him through these feelings because I would be hit or kicked with his full capacity. He doesn’t often touch me voluntarily so I have to treat him with the same respect.
It’s hard. I don’t know how he came to be like this. Is it something his parents have done to him? They too have anger management issues, are physically violent, and are frequently inconsiderate and dismissive towards their children (but sometimes they are nice) Or is it genetics- he is adopted so we don’t know what his birth parents are like. Or is it brain wiring before he was moved at the age of 6 months- but that doesn’t seem long enough for long-term damage of this nature to set it. I don’t think the parents see the full extent of this child’s issues, and that he needs help.
I find myself dreading each day, and wishing away the remaining time I’m working for this family- the opposite of what I want to be doing which is savouring each moment. My time with the girls is now cut short- some days I don’t even see them if a parent finishes before they finish school for the day. I am beginning to miss them already- as our time together is now marred by their brothers behaviour, bringing out their worst natures.
I’ve written before about my work here.
P.S. We have had some good times but just.. not many. These have included; pretending he’s falling off a cliff while I give a running commentary (twice), pretending to be normans/germans/etc and knocking on the front door to steal gold/murder people (twice), playing battleships/draughts (3 games). That’s it, and it’s been 2.5 weeks!
To lighten things up; have a look at the world of a fantastic Irish children’s storybook writer