No, I am not about to start singing or break into a ‘interesting’ dance routine (unless you include the ‘dance of attunement’ that I find myself trying to do every day while parenting my boys) but I thought this was an apt title for this post.
For as long as I can remember, since Beeswax and Buzzbee were placed with us, things have had a habit of ‘disappearing’ and more often than not these items were mine.
For quite some time, although some of the hiding places were genius, I found it very difficult to accept someone stealing from me, even if it was as innocent as my favourite bar of chocolate. We knew who the culprit was and we made several attempts to deal/manage with the situation using traditional approaches with ‘consequences, which were a total failure and often made things worse. So we tried approaches that were less likely to send him spiralling into a toxic state of shame.
We tried every suggestion anyone was willing to offer us to try and alleviate the problem –
- We provided a snack box which lived in his bedroom with all his favourite ‘goodies’ – he never touched it
- We kept the fruit bowl full on the dining room table which he could take from whenever he wanted – again he didn’t go for it
- We put locks on the cupboard doors and a chime sensor so he couldn’t sneak down in the middle of the night – He managed to get hold of a duplicate key (still don’t know how) and used a magnet to fool the sensor.
- We put a piece of paper on the wall with a squirrel stamp and made it a challenge. If he left a squirrel stamp it was not for him to tell us what he took, but for us to ‘work it out’ – Worked for a couple of days, but then ‘squirrelling’ escalated to more precious items but no stamps
We tried so many more tricks, but nothing seemed to help until one day, after a very emotion filled session with Jemima talking about how bad I felt that he still found it so hard to trust that if he were to ask for something instead of taking it, that we wouldn’t say No, we explored whether the reason he took my things was because he was angry with birth mum and he was adamant that this wasn’t the case, but that he stole from me because he ‘needed to know he could still do it and obviously if he took sweets he was going to eat them’. He insisted that he never felt bad about taking anything but he was able to accept Jemima and my hypothesis that the way he was reacting to being found out was ‘possibly’ a sign that he did actually feel a little bit bad about it or that he thought I would hate him. We asked him if he had any suggestions on how Bumble and I could help him and I remember vividly his response “You can’t catch me so you can’t stop me. It is always too late the deed has been done”.
He was right but we couldn’t let it carry on. He had now started stealing from my parents, school and his brother (although we rarely could prove it until it was ‘too late’). How could we stop this without him escalating into a shame filled rage? There was big part of me that just wanted my belongings back or at least to know that the goodies that were ‘disappearing’ were not me forgetfully consuming them myself and forgetting to replenish.
So Bumble and I decided we would have an amnesty. We placed a box in the bedrooms and explained to the boys that daddy and I were missing some things and we needed them back. We told both boys (even though we knew only one of them had the items) that the boxes will be left in their rooms until the morning and they could put anything that they had that they knew they shouldn’t have in it. I would take the boxes out of the rooms in the morning and nothing would be said about the contents of the box, however if I then go into their rooms and find anything; we may need to talk about it. We called them the ‘Oops’ boxes and to my delight they seemed to work. Ok there was one time when he thought he had got one over on me by hiding all the sweet wrappers in his hollow curtain pole – sadly for him, his mum is a complete klutz and pulled it down trying to put its end stopper back on.
For quite some time the boxes were used on a weekly basis and rarely was there a need to revisit any misdemeanours. Gradually the boxes in the bedrooms turned into an ‘Oops’ basket that occasionally (usually at times of heightened anxiety and stress) appears on the top of the landing for an evening and any member of the family can place items that are not where they should be, in it.
In this case, “thinking inside of the box” figuratively speaking has been a success for the hive.