Parenting A Difficult Child – Tripping

StockSnap_ORICTKI1PC

Kevin and his mother are sitting in the living room watching television.

Joel, Kevin’s little brother comes in to watch television as well.

As Joel walks by Kevin to sit on the couch, Kevin lifts his leg to trip Joel.  Joel falls on his face and starts crying.

“What?”  Kevin yells at him.  “Why are you crying?  Shut up!”

Kevin’s mother has just seen Kevin trip Joel.  “Stop yelling at your brother.”  She scoops up Joel to comfort him.  “He’s crying because you hurt him when you deliberately tripped him.”

“I didn’t trip him.”  Kevin yells at his mother.

“I just watched you trip him.  Don’t lie.”  His mother responds calmly.  “You don’t get to bully people, yell at them because you hurt them and then lie about it.  That’s not how life works.”

“I didn’t trip him.  He just fell.”  Kevin continues shouting.  “And I’m not lying.”

Kevin’s mother has had enough of the yelling and the lying.  Why won’t he take responsibility for his own actions?

“That’s enough, Kevin.  You’ve earned yourself a time out.”  She says.

“Why?”  Kevin demands.  “I didn’t do anything!”

“You can have a time out for hurting your brother, lying about it and yelling at everyone.  We don’t treat each other that way.”

Kevin crosses his arms with a defiant expression on his face and says, “No, I’m not going to.”

“Alright then,” his mother responds, silently boiling at the blatant disrespect, “You’re not getting your snack until you’ve taken your time out.”

Time passes and Kevin still refuses to take his time out.  Snack time rolls around and everyone but him is provided with a snack.

“Where’s mine?” Kevin demands, anger dripping from his words.

“You’ll get yours once you’ve taken your time out.”  His mother calmly replies.

Kevin stands up and throws his chair to the ground.  “Ugh!  I hate it here.  This place is so stupid!”  He slams a cupboard door and picks up an item off of the counter and throws it across the room.  “It’s your fault that I hate it here.  You’re always so mean to me.”  He kicks the wall and storms upstairs yelling about how it’s Joel’s fault that he’s in a time out because Joel hurt himself.

His mother gives him a few moments to himself before reminding him that if he wants his snack, he must first take his time out.

“I am in time out.”  Kevin yells as he whips toys and books around the bedroom, although he clearly is not taking his punishment as he should be.

Now, there are some things to understand about Kevin.

His actions and the things that he says come off as immature, defiant, disrespectful and abusive.  He is often impulsive, he will argue about anything and everything, and he seems to refuse to accept any sort of responsibility for his actions.

But the thing is that he’s not a bad child.  Nor is he the product of bad parenting.

Kevin’s behaviors can fit the diagnosis of Opposisitional Defiance Disorder (ODD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) although it’s not diagnosed in childhood,  or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) ; just to name a few.

Whichever diagnosis he actually has is irrelevant to this article.  What is important is that Kevin really does have legitimate reasons for his explosive behaviors even though they are invisible reasons.

When we assume that a child is being willfully defiant, disrespectful, dishonest or manipulative, then we feel a need to discipline them for their actions and force them to want to do the right thing.

Let’s break the scenario down.

1.  Kevin trips Joel:  Kevin is impulsive because he lacks the skills to think ahead before he acts or says something.  He is unable, in the moment, to realize that he is going to cause harm to another person or think of the consequences that will follow  his actions.  Impulse control is a skill that needs to be taught to him.

2.  Kevin yells at Joel:  Kevin knows that he’s done something wrong and he lashes out at Joel out of guilt and out of fear that he will be punished.  Kevin has very poor emotional control.  Every time he is hungry, tired, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, feels guilty or he feels wronged in some way, he reacts with explosive anger.
He reacts with anger because his emotional age is not lined up with his physical age.  He has not yet learned to successfully interpret, balance or communicate his emotions or his emotional needs.  It is a skill that needs to be taught to him.

3.  Mom makes accusations and Kevin lies:  The accusations that Kevin’s mother make Kevin feel more defensive, and Kevin’s defense is offensive.  Kevin is feeling very overwhelmed by his emotions right now and doesn’t know how to handle it so his anger increases.  He lies because he is afraid of being punished.

4.  Mom says “Time out.”:  Kevin is being punished for things that he could not control and he simply shuts down and refuses to listen to anything.  Shutting down is a common defense mechanism for people who struggle with emotional control.  They simply cannot deal with the emotional overload anymore.

5.  Kevin has a tantrum:  When Kevin is reminded that he has to take a time out, he throws a tantrum because his extreme emotions have been ignited again.  At this point he knows that he must be punished for his inability to control his actions and he has become enraged.  He is also exhibiting black and white thinking; where things are either all good or all bad.  After his time out, his mother could give him his favorite snack but in the moment he still feels as though she is the worst mother ever who is always unfair to him.

Kevin often feels as if he is a bad child because he struggles so hard to control his behavior and often fails.  His self esteem is low.  He wants to be a “good” child, but he doesn’t know how.

When we look at why a child is explosive or unruly instead of focusing on the actions and the age of a child, we can better understand that the behavior is that of someone who has lagging skills and not that of someone who is intentionally attempting to inflict pain and misery on the family.

Then that begins us all down a path to solutions and healing.

It Really Is Okay

Two days ago I was taking big steps
That day I reached my goal
I was able to cover a lot of ground
And I felt in control
Two days ago my goal was achievable
And I had quite a bit of help
I was well prepared and I took my time
And I felt good about myself

Yesterday I stumbled and fell
And I was overwhelmed for the whole day
I tried to get ahead of myself
And made no progress along the way
Yesterday my goals were ridiculous
And I had no help at all
I expected far too much of myself
And it slowed me down to a crawl

Today I’m taking baby steps
I’m just going with the flow
I’m making more progress than yesterday
But it’s going kind of slow
Today I haven’t set much for goals
Just one-to make it through the day
And even though I haven’t worked much
I still feel okay

Some days I’ll feel like I’m on top
I’ll feel tall and my steps will be long
Some days I’ll feel like I’m crawling
And I just need to be strong
Some days I’ll feel scattered
Unaware of where I’m going
And some days I’ll be inspired
With creativity and knowledge flowing

On the days I need to catch my breath
I need to realize, I can’t run all day, every day
And when I need to slow down a bit
It really is okay.

201120151208_075531

I Can’t

I can’t.

Well, I can’t right now.

One day in the future, I can; as long as you’re willing to bend and stretch your definition of what “can” is.

It’s not that I don’t want to.  I can’t overcome it by positive thinking.  I can’t “just do it”.  I’m not lazy.  I’m not making up excuses.  I’m not weak.

I can’t because I am the brain that is swallowed by panic and fear.

I can’t because I am the brain that is over stimulated and overwhelmed.

I can’t because I am the brain that doesn’t have the proper words in me to describe what I’m going through so I can get help.

I can’t because I am the brain that is numbed from feeling too much for too long and has become worn out.

I can’t because I am the brain that struggles to understand the difference between what is real or not because it all seems the same.

I can’t because I am the brain that is desperately trying to cope with sensory overload.

I can’t because I am the brain that is unable to shut down at night so I can rest.

I can’t because I am the brain who is deficient in executive functions and I have not yet learned and exercised these skills.

I can’t because I am the brain that automatically switches off my control when I’m trying to cope with disappointment, frustration or stress.

I can’t because I am the brain that jumbles, reverses and mixes things up.

I can’t because I am the brain that is scattered and unfocused.

I can’t because I’ve put my energy into trying to cope with my malfunctioning brain, self advocating and trying to meet the standards expected of me and I’ve become so drained.

If I could, I would; but I can’t.

I can’t until I learn the skills that I need and practice them.

I can’t until I’ve rested.

I can’t until I’ve gotten the help and guidance I need from someone else.

Please try to understand that I’m trying harder than you’ll ever know and be patient with me.  Please don’t tell me that you can just get over it so I could as well if I just try harder.

One day, somewhere down the road, when I can; please recognize the strength and struggles that it took to get that far instead of looking at my other “can’ts”.

 

20160418_202528.jpg

Why Are You Tired?

Chances are, you know someone with a mental disorder or disability and you’ve probably asked them this or thought this before.

This statement, “I’m tired” is not a complaint or pessimistic.  It’s merely a fact of life.

Allow me to explain why a person who is constantly battling their own brain and societal expectations feel so drained.

These are people whose brains are stuck in overdrive and have a great amount of difficulty unwinding to fall asleep at night.  For the average person, it takes 7 minutes to fall asleep.
Imagine crawling into bed exhausted and it takes an average of an hour to fall asleep instead of 7 minutes.  Every nap and bathroom break and the brain relaxation delay begins again.

These are people whose sleep is frequently disturbed and who spend their nights tossing and turning instead of resting.  Sometimes they’re awoken by noises, pain, an inability to keep body parts still, by loud noises inside of their heads, vivid dreams and many other reasons.

These are people who wake up feeling, at best, slightly more rested than they were when they crawled into bed in the first place…like a battery that has been damaged that never seems to recharge properly.
These are people, who for decades, don’t feel rested after their slumber.

These are people who put an immense amount of effort into focusing on the task that they’re supposed to do or perform while their minds are trying to carry them down other paths or while they are struggling to remember just what those tasks are.
These are are people with working memory issues who from school age on into adulthood, lack the skill to remember multi-step instructions in a world where they’re just expected to know how to do it.

These are people who are in a constant war with their own brain.  People who are battling their own thoughts and fears; hearing every day from their brains that they aren’t good enough, strong enough, skinny enough, that people don’t like them, or that they should have done better…just to list a few things.

These are people who are in a constant war with other people’s judgement and lack of understanding.  Who are often asked questions or who hear comments like “Why are you always tired?”, “Just suck it up and deal with it.”, “It’s just a lack of discipline.”, “It’s all in your head.”, “Stop being so pessimistic.” and “Stop being so lazy.”

These are people who experience sensory overload that mentally exhausts them.  From the clothing they are expected to wear, the food that they are expected to eat, the noise around them, the sights engulfing them and the odors surrounding them, these people’s senses are constantly under attack.

These are people who are exhausted from self-advocating to people who don’t understand and don’t care to understand.

These are people who spend most of every day dealing with fears that others find silly and irrational.  It’s like living on a rope bridge swaying in the wind over a canyon while you’re afraid of heights and hearing “I don’t understand what you’re complaining about, the bridge is secure.  Suck it up and deal with it.  I can do it, so you can too.”

These are people who are struggling to communicate their experiences because communications is a skill that needs to be taught and exercised.  It’s like those who don’t have a strong artistic talent being instructed to create a sculpture using the items around you to present how they currently feel within the next five minutes.

These are people who expel a large amount of energy trying to understand body language and emotions which is another lagging skill.  It would be like showing you a picture of my cat and expecting you to identify what he’s feeling based on his facial expression and pose within minutes, multiple times a day.

20161004_104759
How is this kitten feeling?

These are people who are tired from the side effects of medication or self-medicating to cope with the symptoms of their diagnosis and the expectations of society.

These are people who are struggling with their brain to differentiate what’s real and what’s not because their brains present everything to them as reality.

These are people who are likely to be struggling with relationships, drug abuse and alcoholism.

These are people who have physical manifestations from their mental struggles because being on high alert takes a physical toll on a person.
These are people whose muscles ache constantly or whose muscles are tired from being tense too often, who get frequent headaches or migraines, who’s appetite is affected and whose immune system becomes impaired…just to name a few things.

So please, dear readers, the next time someone with an invisible disability says that they’re tired, don’t treat them as if they’re lazy or irrational.  Instead, imagine living your life on a rope bridge over a canyon, or imagine how you would feel if someone jabbed you and woke you up several times a night for just one year and the physical and mental impact it would have on you.

20160826_183134
Is he about to attack?

I beg of you, on behalf of all of us fighting our own silent battles, please be patient and empathetic.  Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean that it’s not a reality for someone else.

 

I’m certain that I’ve left out many reasons as to why someone may often answer “How are you?” with “I’m tired.”  If there’s more examples you can think of, please feel free to mention it in the comments.