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Monday, May 4, 2015

Advice needed for wall drawing...

One of my kiddos who shall remain nameless (Starts with a T and ends with a ninja) has been particularly destructive lately. Mind you this child has always been particularly destructive. Pretty much every flat surface, table and wall has her artwork complete with autograph written or carved in or on it. But recently it's been worse than normal. She's intentionally drawing or even scribbling on stuff that shouldn't be drawn on.
Sharpie on furniture.
Carving with a ball point pen into wood furniture.
A kid's stamper on the walls.
And I'm at a loss on how to help her not continue this destructive behavior!
An exterior wall on our home, one of her favorite places to draw. Yes, she pointed an arrow to her signature.The paint is rubbed off on the bottom from a place she was scrubbing. 
I usually try the natural consequences route first. So IF the damage can be cleaned, that's what I have her do. Sometimes even when I know it can't be cleaned, (like in the case of markers on the exterior wall of our home) I still have her try. But often the damage can't be fixed, like in the case of the sharpie on a cloth ottoman, so I know it's futile to even have her try. So sometimes I resort to a time-in or one of her treasures getting grounded and an apology.  But like I mentioned, the destructiveness seems to be happening too often and my home is taken a beating.

My mama gut says she does it because she lacks impulse control and doesn't really care, and if she get's caught, (often she doesn't because I don't find the evidence until long after the fact, because she is a ninja after all) she knows it's a good way to get my attention, albeit negative attention (thank you very much Psych 101 class I took in college!) So even if she gets caught, the consequences are worth it. So now I find myself at a loss on how to discipline her, because evidently what I'm doing is not dissuading her from doing it again. And again. And again.
It just keeps happening.
Notice towards the end that she cycles pretty quickly from indifference to anger/defiance to sadness/rejection. Such is the life when we parent kiddos with attachment issues. We've been working on helping her identify the feeling of guilt since it naturally comes out as anger. It's a great example of Attachment 101: Push back and regain control before rejection occurs.

Any advice you can give will be taken in!


  1. How about start keeping track of how many days she draws only on appropriate things and maybe she can "save up" points toward an easel with a white board or you could paint a small section of a wall somewhere with whiteboard paint for her and the kids to use. We just did that in my husband's studio (he's an artist and encourages drawing on walls) and Bea loves it! Feels like she's doing something "bad" and its okay! They sell whiteboard paint and we also have a section of the kitchen with chalkboard paint for our daily week and she has a section of that she gets all to herself too. meanwhile, cover your upholstery in plastic like the 1950's! :)
    Other ideas...does she have access to sidewalk chalk? Is there an art class she could take somewhere? a group who does murals in the town/city? Just brainstorming and I know you don't want to "reward" her for misbehavior, but I'm just thinking of how to channel this in a positive way. I'd also rehearse with her every morning, like in a Social Story, for a while, very briefly, asking her to remind you where in the house it is appropriate to draw/scribble, etc.
    just off the top of my head...

    1. Michele, thank you so much for the suggestions! I like the idea about rehearsing every morning. We do that already with other issues. I think this issue needs to move up on the list.I don't think a reward/sticker/point system per day will work mostly because most days I'm pretty sure I don't "catch" it the day it happened. She knows she's not suppose to do it and the house inside/outside is a big place with lots of surfaces, so I just don't catch them till later and have no idea really when it actually occurred. I know I'd be rewarding the days she did draw on things too. ---We do have a big white board and I'm going to encourage her to use that more often. And our sidewalk chalk, which is used regularly just ran out, so I'm going to get more and make sure it's on hand. Great ideas!

  2. Part of the issue might be a wish to draw/paint on different surfaces. It might be helpful with a whiteboard wall, art class, new sidewalk chalk etc. for this side of it. Perhaps a whiteboard wall will be a little bit more exciting than a whiteboard? Slightly more "forbidden fruit"...? Could you add some fabric scraps, cardboard boxes etc to the material that she is actually allowed to draw on?

    She also needs to respect your belongings and your wish to keep your house nice. Perhaps she could paint a small piece of furniture, like a shelf, toy chest or a chair, together with you? Just something that she can choose the colour of, something that can be hers - which she wouldn't like anyone else to ruin.

    I find that it's most effective to divert the child from the destructive behaviour and make sure to reinforce the positive choices, but as you know that means you'd have to be there with her and learn to see when she's about to do something bad. Tricky and time consuming, and pretty much impossible when you have more than one child to look after.

    I'd remove as many as possible of the temptations, put pens and sharpies out of reach. Probably hard to control all those items when there are older children living in the house, but worth a try.

    Asking her why probably doesn't help much for finding out why, but it can be good for helping her start to think that way a bit more, to think about why she does things. But can you think of why? Has it been tough on her that your husband is away so much? Is she at a developmental stage where she needs to test some limits? Is something changing at school?

    Now, I'm pretty sure you're already doing a great job. Make sure you get some rest, too. Is there someone else who can take her off your hands now and then, and let her have a good time elsewhere? Even if she isn't able to see why she's doing that stuff, or able to just stop with the negative behaviour, she must somehow feel bad about it too, and would be more comfortable if she had a break from it.

    Good luck!

    1. This reminds me of another suggestion. Asking a child "why" they've done something almost never works, particularly with regard to a misbehavior. It also implies that if they give the "correct" answer there'd be a justifiable/rational reason for the behavior, which of course there isn't. Another approach is to ask "What were you thinking in your head write before you wrote this?" and not in a screaming "WHAT WERE YOU POSSIBLY THINKING???!!" way, like you really want to know because after all our thoughts come first, then feelings and behavior. Her thought might be simply "that would look cool or it would be fun or it would be funny to see mommy mad, etc." and you can give her some self-talk to counter that original thought. Just another idea.

  3. Hi Nancy, It's been a while since I've been here. Good to "see" you again. I love that you share so openly and honestly. And, quite frankly, I love that even with a parcel of kids, you're still searching for new ideas. It makes me feel like less of a rookie!

    A few thoughts:
    1. Storyboarding with her what to do when she needs attention, wants to draw, etc... We use cutout photos glued to magnets for our storyboards.
    2. A Buddha board like this one and shoot, if she doesn't like it, it's supposed to be calming, so maybe you can use it.
    3. My Nana was an artist and used to have me draw with her. Occasionally, the kids and I draw or watercolor together while listening to Sparkle Stories or music. Everyone likes it and it makes us all feel terribly cultured to be dabbling in still lifes and landscapes.

  4. Maybe put a basket in various places around the house witj different materials she can carve into/draw on. I wasnt a child from a hard place, but i drew, tore, stamped, carved and stuck on all different kinds of surfaces in my chilhood home. I majored in visual art in college on a scholarship. : ) I needed to experiment and create as a child!
    Maybe have the sharpies and carving tools in a special place and offer her the opportunity to explore a few times a week.
    Its evident youre a great mom! Keep up the good work loving your children!

  5. From one adoptive mama to another, I know how tough adoption & attachment is! While getting more whiteboards sounds like a good idea, it likely isn't a lack of surfaces to draw on. As you know, you have to make changes as to how you parent when it comes to adoption. I get what it is like and how it is. We have dealt similar issues. Even this shall pass. I wish I had better suggestions but I'm run dry!

  6. Hi, My oldest daughter, is home-grown as you put it with no attachment issues at all, and she has this exact same problem and reacts the same way when questioned about it. I think partly this is just that age. I realize that your daughter has some issues that sometimes make problems worse or magnified, but I think you can let yourself off the hook on this one. I think all kids do this to some degree. Not that this solves your problems, but it might help you to realize that this is a normal everyday problem, because sometimes when we are in the trenches we forget to look out and see the others struggling with the same problems and we forget that we are good parents. If you do figure out how to solve it, please let me know. My house needs saving too. :-)

  7. We've been through wall drawing. It was 2 years ago that it got to it's worst and we haven't painted over any of it yet in case she does it again. :(

    In my daughter's case, her wall drawing was (we know now) because she was mad at us for moving and changing her life. She was 6 and we moved only 2 1/2 hours away, but that was the only life she'd ever known (well, other than her 9 1/2 months in the China orphange). She was mad at us and didn't know what to do about it. Thankfully, as she adjusted to life here, she stopped. Has your family gone through any changes since she started??? Just a thought.

    Praying for y'all. I know how hard it is.

  8. I don't know if you could try this... It has been successful for my repeat offenders :)
    We call it "Glue Girl" or "Glue Boy" and they must stay by my side at ALL times, except for bathroom trips and bedtime. Yes, it's a lot of work for the mom!! It helped us because the Glue Girl was usually needing attention and typically got in trouble when she was alone. I usually do 2-3 days. Once I was so upset I said one week - yeah... don't do that :) Thanks for your real blogging!

  9. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! Thank you for showing me I am not the only one with a child who does this!

    She was adopted with her 3 brothers and sisters (yes a sibling group of 4) a year ago this month. My sweet treasure does this when she is not happy with me, like when I correct her (she mostly draws on books with markers). She uses words that show how stupid she feels (she is not the youngest but is forced to the bottom of our food chain by her siblings).

    So I guess what I am saying is that in our case the action is all about how she views herself (always negative when she draws or writes on things). She also has a tendency to self-harm (nothing serious) and lack of impulse control. We have given her a special book for her to draw in and when we notice her mood is lacking self-control I encourage her to scribble to the point of tearing the page. Often we end this time in laughter together.

    Ahh sweet laughter, I wish there was more of that around here...

  10. my thought is that if destroying is ramping up it is a language that maybe she doesn't even understand of communicating hard feelings. she is taking control, changing something when she otherwise feels powerless. I would try to look at the behavior as saying something, and maybe if you can find out what it is saying then it can lessen. - or maybe it is impulse control issues and sensory and lack of empathy. but, maybe it's worth exploring the why. There is a reason there is a book called "Beyond Consequences..." that helps stuff like this about kids from trauma. Discipline and consequences make us feel like we are parenting, but do not actually help prevent future behavior. At all. (revisit that book, it talks all about destruction of household stuff as a behavior and gives advice on how to deal with it. I think it's hard to do but actually somewhat effective.)


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