Saturday, August 1, 2015

Every Kid Has Their Currency: A Story of Persistence and the Bathroom Lights

by John and Diane

I want to share a little story with you about the bathroom lights.

My (adopted) son "Steve" is now in his mid teens, but still suffers the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and has devastating memory issues.

 His long term memory is really bad, and his short term memory is terrible.

We have spent years trying to find ways to deal with this and find tools to help him remember things like where his back pack is, where his phone is and, I swear, where his head is at sometimes....

So, the latest battle has been trying to get him to remember to shut off his bathroom lights.  I know, it doesn't seem like ground-breaking stuff.. but these are the day-to-day issue we work on.

I tried for weeks to get him to remember.
I'd find his bathroom light on, and I would call him back to turn it off.  Inconvenient, but it didn't stop the behavior.

He'd be outside, a mile down the road, I would find the light on, I'd call him in to come and shut it off.... still, I would find it left on a few hours later.

I then decided that each time I would find it left on, I would unscrew one of the four light bulbs... until he was in the dark.   This. Did. Not. Work.  (groan.)

Mind you... and THIS IS IMPORTANT:  When I would call him back to turn off the light, I wouldn't just ask him to do it, he'd get a whole speech on the importance of Energy, the cost of Energy, the necessity of responsibility and most importantly, I would tell him, "I'm not angry with you, I just need you to remember to do this, and Im trying to help you."  He understood, and amicably turned off the lights when asked.. (I was tired of asking...)

As you all know, the trick with Foster or any kids, is finding the one thing that works with that kid... their "Currency."  Once you know how a kid's mind, or Memory works, you can use that to teach them anything.  That's why I had to go thru all the different techniques to try to get him to remember... until I found one that worked... and I did.

Finally one day I called Steve down to turn off the lights.  This time I said, "Okay Steve, Every time you leave the light on, and I have to call you back to turn it off, you have to drop and give me 10 push ups."
and he did....

Again, I told him, this isn't a punishment, its just a way to try to get you to remember... I said it in a loving voice, in a friendly and supportive manner and I patted him on the back and said "good job." when he was done.

I haven't had to call him back to turn off the light since then.

I wanted to share this story with you all to remind you about Currency.  Every kid has that "thing"  that "trigger" that is going to work with them. Persistence is what it takes to find that magic word, action or object that can help change behavior and create change.

This was just a behavioral modification, but it has clued me in to something about Steve that might help me further with his memory issues.  Steve remembers things via a physical connection!  Now this can be applied to anything he needs to remember.  I'm not saying he'll need to do Push-ups for everything he needs to remember, but perhaps some kind of physical action to remember important tasks... this is how his memory makes its connections in the brain.   Now I can apply this to other things and see if it helps in other areas of his life.

What do you think about Currency?  Share your stories, we'd love to hear them.


  1. I just started following you blog, and hopefully will catch up one day on your writings and experiences. I'm a mom who has been parenting for 38 years and counting with raising five children including one biological and the others were added in through various origins. I've given a home for at least five additional children for months and in some cases years, and now with two teens left at home, I'm going to be trying to qualify to become an "official" foster parent. I've been praying about this for three years and over the last few weeks, believed God was saying to "just do something!" I have been trying to find different foster parenting blogs on line so I can educate myself as much as possible, though I am going to be starting our local foster parenting classes in a couple of weeks. I had taken these classes three years ago but since I never opened my home, I am retaking them and updating all my paperwork. Any way, look forward to getting to know you and your family through the blog. Blessings to you both on all you do.

    1. Thank you Pam, and I hope you find our Blog helpful. I would suggest reading the Blending Families Series (Theres a Tab at the top of the Blog page with the links) and maybe our top ten list to get started and if you run into questions, feel free to ask. We are here for you! Thank you for all you have done for Kids.
      Diane and John