Trying not to lose your child

Dear Bloggers,

Last week we went to the doctors office to find out what is the point in the behavior of our youngest daughter. She goes through stages with outbursts of anger and on the other hand she can be totally from the planet when she is watching TV or is on the computer. The symptoms of a deficit disorder can present parents with many challenges. Kids with a disorder “often lose track of their daily things, have difficulty staying on top of homework and seem generally scattered when attending to chores or assigned tasks”. Impulsivity is another challenge, which can lead kids to be defiant or to argue. An other good example is when you go shopping they might see something and disappear all of a sudden as they are atracted by something much more interresting.They tend to easily get overstimulated and they overreact to frustration or failure.

I would say that some kids with these kind of disorders are easier triggered and will get themselves in to trouble as they have quicker a fight-or-flight reaction to stress,” which can make enforcing rules difficult for parents. Most parents may have a tough time knowing how to provide structure without pressure.

“Children know what to do but they don’t do what they know,” This is the tricky part to make things clear to the child what is right and what is wrong. Consequently, parents might not know when to be firm and when to be patient.

Fortunately, while there are many challenges that come with raising kids with a disorder in behaviour there are also effective strategies and rewards that can be used.

The importance of staying calm. Once the parent is out of control, the child’s anger becomes even more escalated, assuring that the interaction will result in a non-productive outcome.” So pay attention to yourself if you have a tendency toward behaviors like reactivity. Arguing with your child won’t get you anywhere. Take home chores like clearing their room, for instance an activity that can feel like a tug-of-war. Arguing simply creates “a diversion that delays home chores even longer. Instead, Diffuse, don’t engage. For example “Say, ‘I understand this is no fun for you,’ followed by silence, positive expectancy and a loving touch on the shoulder. The wrong move here would be saying, “Oh why don’t you stop complaining. You’re dawdling over nothing.”

If you want to make a difference start with yourself and set limits on your own behavior. If you’re inclined to be a worried, rescuing parent, remind yourself that the more you do for your child, the less he does for himself. The key is to support, but don’t get into the driver’s seat. If you’d still like to keep an eye on your child, sit close by, but bring your own work to the table for example pay your bills or balance your checkbook.

Structure involves star charts for young children, calendars and planners for older ones, and clear rules and sensible routines, especially at bedtime. Structure helps reduce disorganization and distractibility. As such, set a consistent time to do home chores, with certain privileges only available to the child after they’ve successfully completed their assignments. For example playing a game together.

So what does pressure-free structure look like? It includes “not using threats or unreasonable deadlines and punishments that contribute to hostility, fear or drama.

Give your kids the chance to make wise choices. To help teach kids self-control. Parents must provide ample opportunities for children to be faced with choices of how to respond. I would suggest using a technique called structured choice, which gives your child two choices that steer him or her in the right direction. For example, parents might ask: Do you want to do your or your next? or Before we can go, your room needs to be picked up. Do you want to start with the clothes on the bed or clear the top of your desk?

Use reasonable consequences for rule-breaking. As a start ask the child what the consequences should be if he or she breaks a rule. This helps kids create commitments that they can actually own. In addition, create and consistently enforce positive consequences for positive behaviors and negative consequences for negative behaviors. This helps your child to recognize that positive behaviors result in positive consequences, and negative behaviors result in negative ones.

Expect rule-breaking, and don’t take it personally. It’s in your child’s “job description” to occasionally break the rules. When your child breaks the rules, “…correct him the way a police officer gives you a ticket. He doesn’t take it personally or groan or yell, ‘I can’t believe you did that again! Why do you do this to me?’ Like the officer, be respectful, consistent, and matter-of-fact.”

Certain accommodations might be necessary for your child because of his or her disorder. However, you still want to encourage kids to cultivate their abilities. An example of finding this tricky balance: “… stand up for his or her right for an accommodation like talking books, but encourage and expect him or her to learn to read fluently, giving him or her time, attention, a tutor, and most especially, your belief that he or she can.”

Avoid muting a headstrong child. One of the mistakes parents can make is “Trying to turn a spirited, willful child into one that never questions authority and accepts all that is said ‘just because I said so’ as a parent.”

Instead, I would suggest that parents “ accept that some children will protest and talk back, and parents must set a limit that on the one hand realizes that children need at least some way to express their frustration, while still enforcing reasonable standards and rules.”

Realize that your child isn’t misbehaving on purpose. Parents of kids with behavior disorders “subconsciously make error assumptions about why their child is misbehaving”.

In reality children are very goal-directed and do what they do with the hope of obtaining an outcome they seek, which usually pertains to something they want to do or get, or something they are trying to avoid (like chores, home work or bed time).

Being persistent is crucial. Kids with behavior disorders may “require more trials and exposure to consistent consequences in order to learn from that experience.” Trying a technique one or two times with no results doesn’t mean that it’s completely ineffective. You just might have to keep trying. Every concern can’t be fixed at once. So it’s important for parents “to prioritize what situations seem most important, and start with those, temporarily letting go of the less important problems.”

Educate yourself about the disorder and attention. Knowing how symptoms affect your child is essential. You might think that your child is being stubborn or behaving a certain way on purpose. The other important part is educating yourself about attention and learning when your child is at his or her peak of productivity. Consider the following scenario: Your child won’t finish her homework, so you firmly tell her that she’s grounded if she doesn’t “buckle down right now.” Instead, though, she has a meltdown. The problem? Her arousal level was too high. “Deep down, she was scared to put something on the paper, because she anticipated it wasn’t going to be good enough — too sloppy, poor spelling, not as polished as her siblings’ or his classmates’ work.” The heightened arousal caused her to feel overwhelmed, so she needed less adrenaline to focus on her task.

Knowing when your child can concentrate best helps you chunk assignments into manageable steps, suggest breaks to decrease tension, alternate interesting and boring tasks, and keep its adrenaline-based brain chemicals pumping with a steady stream of just the right amount of stimulation.

It all comes down on helping your child adjust to change. Children with behavior disorders have a difficult time with “set-shifting,” a brain function that involves adjusting to change or switching cognitive processes, especially if they’re hyper-focused on an activity. I emphasize the importance of giving your child,no matter how busy you are the time and information he needs to mentally adjust for big changes such as vacations, guests or a new babysitter and small changes such as stopping one activity to begin the next, especially when what’s next is getting ready for bed. For instance, when you get back from vacation, the night before, review your child’s routine with him or her.

Focus on your child’s strengths and positive behavior. Instead of harping on what your child can’t do, hone in on what they can. Keep reminding yourself about your child’s resourcefulness, creativity and individuality. The same self-determination and intractability that drives you nuts today will empower your child tomorrow. Picture her as a tireless entrepreneur, attorney, or doing any work she feels passionate about. It’s best for parents to try to strike a balance. “Don’t deny your childs special needs, and don’t define him or her by them, either.”

Cut yourself some slack. Raising a child with a disorder whose symptoms include impulsivity, defiance and limited self-control is one of the most challenging tasks any person will ever attempt. So acknowledge that you’re working hard, and “Do not feel like a failure. You did not cause your child to behave this way, but you can make a difference.” At least that is what I think. Celebrate being a parent and being with your child. Parenting kids with behavior disorders can feel like a frustrating and sometimes unfeasible task. But “Don’t let behavior disorders rob you of the joy of being a parent.” When parents are at their wits’ end, they can do a few things to help. For instance, I suggest to you as a parent “cradle your arms and remember what it felt like when your child was just born.”

If you’re“correcting your child too much, turn your ring or put your wristwatch on your other hand, and don’t put it back the right way until you’ve thought of and said something positive or caught your child being good. Some children are focussed on details and will notice this as a warning sign.

I hope that some of you can use some of these suggestions to help your child. Because there is nothing more beautiful then a happy parent with a happy child.

The Old Sailor,


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