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Verging on despair and about to give up GD-- Help? (Very long)

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 

I feel like the clock is ticking on getting help for my ds6, before he gets an ODD dx, or kicked out of school, or both.  I am so confused about how to "handle" him (especially since no approach has had much impact so far!).  Even if I did know exactly what would help, I'd run into resistance from all sides.  I could use some clear-headed advice.

 

As you know if you remember any of my previous threads, both my kids are "quirky" and "challenging," as well as "gifted."  FWIW, my ds14 has an anxiety dx, and a 504 plan for "executive function" issues.  He can write a college-level essay, for example, but he'll take double the assigned time to write it, nearly have a breakdown pulling it out of himself,  and then lose it or forget to turn it in.  shake.gif

 

Ds6 has been intense, sensitive, and demanding since day one.  He has some sensory issues.  His separation anxiety lasted a long time.  He has a pretty high activity level.  He is very affectionate, but has little interest in pleasing others (never has!).  He is very persistent, and not easily calmed or redirected when he doesn't get what he wants, or feels he has been "wronged."

 

Ds6 started preschool when he was nearly 5.  For the first 4 months or so, he was practically "perfect."  He was cooperative and rule-abiding.  He was quiet and a bit of a loner, playing with other kids only if they sought him out.  Then, he started acting out.  He was less compliant and more disruptive, clowning for the other kids at inappropriate times, making noises, not obeying teacher directives.  When I asked him why, he said that it was "too hard" to be "good" all the time.

 

A couple of months after this behavior started, stbx and I separated.  Obviously, this was a big change.  I don't know how much the separation affected ds' behavior, though.  The breakup had been coming for a very long time, and in many ways, it was a positive event in ds' life.

 

The misbehavior continued during that preschool year.  He was a bit better during the summer, (even at camp with the same teachers).  As kindergarten approached, he was very anxious and worried, especially about learning to read.  He was in a black mood, belligerent and barely speaking at school.   

 

Once he got used to kindy, his behavior changed, but not for the better!  Instead of withdrawing, now he was "pushing buttons."  He would do things to get the other kids (or the teacher!) riled up-- noises, singing, getting in others' faces, not following commands-- and disrupting the class.

 

To be fair to ds, the teacher was a big part of the problem.  She admitted that she didn't deal with him well.  I tried to give her suggestions, but while she received them well, she put most of them into practice inconsistently or not at all.  shrug.gif  The situation started to spiral, until ds was being a nearly constant nuisance; the kids expected him to clown around (egged him on, in fact), and the teacher didn't really try to deal with him anymore-- just had him removed every time he'd start up.

 

Despite this, ds6 was learning just fine.  He learned everything he was expected to, even when he seemed to pay little attention.  His teacher was convinced that his issues were due to our "broken home," even though I told her, repeatedly, that he's always been a handful. 

 

The school required him to go to counseling-- he is not allowed to come back unless he keeps going.  The counselor (a clinical psychologist) assessed him.  He reported that ds is not on the Autism Spectrum, he comes close to meeting criteria for ADHD, and he is very bright.  He also says his social skills are deficient, and that he is very "inner directed" (ie., he doesn't give a flying fig about what other people want him to be doing!).

 

The counselor said that the main thing we (parents and teachers) needed to do was work on ds' ability/willingness to "obey directives."  He wanted us all to be very clear and consistent with expectations (Amen!), and consequences (also Amen).  What is NOT "Amen" for me, is that he wants us to take away privileges from ds for every infraction, and escalate the consequences if ds does not respond.  So far, this has not been very successful!  Ds is still acting up, and I feel like a prison warden.  The counselor says that it hasn't worked yet, because we haven't found the point where ds says "The price of not complying is too high."

 

I am not on board with this, because it goes against most of what I believe about parenting!  OTOH, obviously, my GD has not been a success with ds either.  Maybe the counselor's approach is what ds needs, even if I hate it?  But, besides my personal distaste, the counselor is not sure if ds has ADHD or not, and admitted that he is not sure how much of ds' behavior is involuntary!  So, this method may be punishing ds for things he's not capable of stopping.

 

I don't want to screw up my little guy any more than he already is.  I am in the middle of a divorce, and can't really change ds' counselor without making myself "look bad" and quite possibly getting into a fight with stbx, who is 100% behind the "turn the thumbscrews until he obeys" approach.  Also, ds' counselor was the best (apparently) I could find when I was searching for a counselor-- another might be the same or worse.

 

I can't change ds' school (I think).  There's not reason to think that he'd do well in public school.  I'm not able to afford a different private (I get a huge tuition break on ds' school), even with tons of financial aid.  Also, stbx can fight me on moving either dc.  He can also fight me on homeschooling-- and I think he would, just for spite.  It doesn't matter, though.  I can't hs ds6, because I am a teacher, and so I work during the day, of course!  I tried very hard to find a job that would let me hs, but no luck.  I'm quite lucky to have the job I've got, so I need to keep it.

 

This coming year, ds6 is going to have one of the best teachers in the school.  If he can't do well in her class, then honestly, he can't do well in traditional school at all.  I need to figure ds out before we come to that point!

 

Please chime in if you have ideas about how to get ds "on track" without breaking him, or if you have ideas on how I can get him out of this situation!  Thank you.  redface.gif

post #2 of 29

I'm sorry you're having such a hard time!

 

What particular assessments did the psychologist use?  Did he get info from the school?

 

Would a public school offer more therapies/supports if your DS gets a diagnosis?

 

Has your son been seen by an OT?

post #3 of 29

Is he being stimulated enough in class? Your ds sounds like my dh, who has undiagnosed adhd and spd (trust me I know!), and is also gifted, he acted out a lot and got his butt kicked out of numerous elementary schools and when asked why "I'm bored, they only teach me what I already know"!

post #4 of 29

You've posted about your son's issues a lot, and it definitely seems like a challenging and concerning situation.  I'm not clear as to whether you have support or counseling for yourself, and if not, I wonder if it's something to think about?  I ask because implementing a treatment plan w/your 6 y/o seems like it's going to be a major challenge-whatever you choose to do.  You also have hanging over your head the idea that your ds might get kicked out of school, and you feel like he needs to be in the private school.  It might be helpful to have someone to work with to really take apart these issues with-your ds may not be a good fit for the school.  They don't have to have him if he's not a good fit, and they don't have to work with him.  The public school has to do all of those things, and your son wouldn't be the only one being worked with-my guess is that there would be more resources and support, but that's just a guess.

 

 My point is that you might need some help looking at the situation, looking at what's really within your control, and what's not, and being open to what the choices might actually be.  Has your ds had a full neuropsych work up?  What about ADHD didn't fit?  It is classic that kids with ADHD are asked to be in control of behavior that they simply cannot be.  It's one of the reasons medication becomes an option, in conjunction with therapy.  Sometimes you need to help the brain be in a place to begin to work with therapy.

 

Either way, It sounds like you are peddling really hard to keep the school boat afloat.  Is this really the place that can offer him the support and intervention he needs?  It must be very stressful to feel threatened with having your son expelled. 

 

 

ETA: I feel like I didn't respond to your post title about verging on despair, and about to give up on GD, so I'm sorry if I offered more than you were looking for.  Regarding the GD part; I think children are more complex, and life is more complex, than one "theory" about how we interact with our children can cover.  When there are special needs, the book often goes out the window.  You have to parent the child in front of you.  I don't have enough info regarding your son's info and intervention to be able to comment on what's going on, but I do know that change can be very hard, and very painful-it's why I suggested that you have support for yourself.


Edited by karne - 7/23/11 at 1:47pm
post #5 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by darien View Post

The counselor said that the main thing we (parents and teachers) needed to do was work on ds' ability/willingness to "obey directives."  He wanted us all to be very clear and consistent with expectations (Amen!), and consequences (also Amen).  What is NOT "Amen" for me, is that he wants us to take away privileges from ds for every infraction, and escalate the consequences if ds does not respond.  So far, this has not been very successful!  Ds is still acting up, and I feel like a prison warden.  The counselor says that it hasn't worked yet, because we haven't found the point where ds says "The price of not complying is too high."

 

I am not on board with this, because it goes against most of what I believe about parenting!  OTOH, obviously, my GD has not been a success with ds either.  Maybe the counselor's approach is what ds needs, even if I hate it? 

 

 

 

Different people define GD different. I have no idea what your previous method was. It doesn't sound like you are being told to physically punish him, so it sounds to me like a change in the definition of GD, not a move away from GD.


I think it's possible that the reason it's not working is because you don't want it to, and he's smart enough to pick up on that. As long as your beliefs about parenting are still in the picture at all, there's no hope. I don't think you can help him until figuring out what really works for him is the ONLY thing that matters, and your views on what is the right way to parent have completely melted away.

 

It's hard for me to understand from your post exactly how serious you see his problems. In a way, I think you find them a bit adorable and see the school as part of the problem. May be the school is part of the problem, may be he would do better at a different school. I don't know. My sn kid couldn't function in a catholic school. She needs a lot more freedom and understanding than that.

 

If you really see his behavior as unacceptable, I'm not understand why you don't want to try things with your whole heart and figure out what works for him.

post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 

Adorable?  What on earth gives you the impression that I think my child's freaking pathology is cute?  I have been giving my all to the counselor's method, because I want to believe it is the best for him, and that it will work.  I am also terrified that it may be the wrong approach, and that I'm giving 100% to something that's hurting him.

 

I give up.  I won't post my neurotic obsessions anymore.  Thank you all who offered advice. 

post #7 of 29


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

As long as your beliefs about parenting are still in the picture at all, there's no hope. I don't think you can help him until figuring out what really works for him is the ONLY thing that matters, and your views on what is the right way to parent have completely melted away.


This seems like kind of a weird statement to me.  I think maybe I get where you're coming from - I think you're trying to say that sometimes what works best for a kid is different from what the parent always felt was best, and that parents need to be open to recognizing that.  But maybe you're going a little too far with it.  You really think parents need to completely give up any beliefs they may have about parenting?  Not every counselor out there is equally competent.  If you've given up having any beliefs of your own about what good parenting looks like, what's to keep you from blindly following the advice of a quack?  Is it okay to hold onto a belief that physical punishment is bad, or if someone tells you to hit your kid should you just do it?

 

Quote:

If you really see his behavior as unacceptable, I'm not understand why you don't want to try things with your whole heart and figure out what works for him.

 

It sounds like you're saying the OP should try any suggestion a professional gives her with her whole heart, without allowing herself to question it.  I personally think her uncertainty about following this counselor's recommendations seems pretty reasonable.  Forcing compliance through ever harsher consequences doesn't feel right to me, either.  (Though I realize I can't know for sure that it wouldn't be a helpful approach for this particular child.)  And the fact that the counselor seems to be totally convinced this is the right approach while being uncertain to what extent the child is even able to control his behavior really seems like something that ought to make a sensible person doubtful.
 

 

post #8 of 29

I'm faaaaar from being in any position to offer advice on this, since my struggles with my own ds5 are (it sounds like) quite close to your own and I have often verged on despair myself. But I did just want to mention that I'm working my way through Transforming the Difficult Child and have started trying to implement some of Glasser's techniques (specifically, offering lavish praise when ds is doing things "right"--not fighting, listening, being calm, playing nicely, taking turns, etc etc etc--and downplaying the "bad" behaviors. Offer consistent "consequences" for infractions, but in a very low-key, matter-of-fact way. The latter part is much harder than the former, obviously, but I've been stunned at the transformation I've seen in ds just in the week since I started giving this a shot. It's unbelievable, actually. I haven't even had to work very hard at the "consequences" part, because the "praise and recognize the good behavior" part has been working so well. It sort of went against my impulse toward UP initially, but then so did the yelling, punishing and lecturing I was doing before...redface.gif

 

Hang in there.

post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by darien View Post

 

I give up.  I won't post my neurotic obsessions anymore.  Thank you all who offered advice. 



I hope that you will reconsider.  You've reached out a few times, and I think people do want to offer support.

post #10 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by darien View Post

Adorable?  What on earth gives you the impression that I think my child's freaking pathology is cute?  I have been giving my all to the counselor's method, because I want to believe it is the best for him, and that it will work.  I am also terrified that it may be the wrong approach, and that I'm giving 100% to something that's hurting him.

 

I give up.  I won't post my neurotic obsessions anymore.  Thank you all who offered advice. 



Ah, don't go away.  Linda's great at thinking critically about a situation to try to figure out something helpful.  I'm sure that's what she intended and there's some miscommunication.

 

I also like the Glasser book.

 

There are approaches to work with challenging children that aren't purely behaviourist and include GD and AP principles.  It sounds like your child needs some additional supports/scaffolding while he learns to regulate himself.  I have found good strategies in work about sensory processing disorder and executive function.  If you would like some book titles, I'd be happy to provide them.  Many are available with large previews online through google books.

 

I also agree that there's value in having someone to discuss this will for yourself.  Parenting challenging children is exhausting physically and emotionally.

 

post #11 of 29
I think escalating consequences for every infraction is impractical. I agree with the notion of consequences, but with highly oppositional children, or ordinary children who are really interested in testing boundaries, you can quickly get to a ludicrous level of consequences. Once a child has lost all privileges for the day, they have no incentive to follow directions at all. I think you need one, simple consequence that you implement immediately and calmly every time there is an infraction - in this case, refusal to follow directions. So, for example, every time your ds refuses to follow directions, you could put him in time out. I actually think that would be a hideous consequence, since it means that when he refuses to follow directions, you give him another direction to argue about. Maybe his toys could go in rime out instead - I presume they are easier to move and that he does not have an inexhaustible supply of them.

I also think lavish praise is an important piece of the plan. Whether his behavior is voluntary or not, your son hasn't developed the skill of following directions. He won't always be successful. Praise his efforts. Help him practice. Be creative. You could send him on treasure hunts or have him help with recipes for practice.

Also, make sure that everyone involved knows what the target behavior should look like. In the Boys Town social skills curriculum, following directions is a four step process; listen, say OK, do what you were told, check back to see if you did it right or need to do something else. That's long for a five-year-old. What are you looking for?
post #12 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by stik View Post

I think escalating consequences for every infraction is impractical. I agree with the notion of consequences, but with highly oppositional children, or ordinary children who are really interested in testing boundaries, you can quickly get to a ludicrous level of consequences. Once a child has lost all privileges for the day, they have no incentive to follow directions at all.


I've had this experience, personally.  I'm actually all for consistent consequences, however, when DS1 was younger, if he lost too many privileges, he'd have this all or nothing point of view and say "My whole day (summer, week) is ruined and there's nothing I can do about it!  Now I don't want to listen anymore!"  We once reached a point that due to escalation he had lost all privileges for over a month.  But the "typical" GD principles would not have worked either.  I took a tip from my father who used this method for my brother - merit and demerit points -kind of military style.  We had them posted on the fridge, with lists of both infractions and good behaviors.  Points went toward computer game time as that was a prime motivator.  I think it worked for us because it left a window of hope and opportunity, and it concretely rewarded and reinforced positive behaviors.  When my brother got older (young teenager), my Dad switched to literal monetary fines, and since on a farm there was always lots of work to do, my brother could decide to work beyond the regular chores and my father would compensate him for it.

 

post #13 of 29

It does seem really difficult to ask a child to keep their motivation when potentially the consequences are escalated to the point of having lost access to whatever was motivating to begin with.  I can well imagine the frustration that would follow.  I continue to worry about needing more insight/clarification about what is within or not within this child's control.  Sometimes we assume too much about the "choices" a child seems to be making, and need to look at whether the picture is more complex.

 

 

post #14 of 29

Hello! I didn't read all the replies so I'm sorry if someone already mentioned this- but I have a 6yr. old ds who is also a handful and my simple-minded solution was to use money as a motivator.  I got him a piggy bank and told him every time he listened well or helped out, etc., he would get a quarter or sometimes more if what I was suggesting was really difficult for him.  It started out with him asking me "do I get a quarter for that?" all the time and I was pretty generous in the beginning because I wanted him to build up a stash and then take him to coin star and exchange it for dollars and then take him to target to pick out a toy.  I wanted him to get the idea of how good behavior pays off (since he was also not motivated by making others happy).  And when he started catching on, I was able to raise the stakes of what he needed to do and also give other rewards besides money- like stickers or letting him chose what was for dinner.  Anyway the point was to ignore the bad behavior and focus on the good.  I don't know if that is compatible with the gentle discipline techniques (I'm sorry I don't know much about it), but it really helped us- and I told his kindergarden teacher about it and she would email me and let me know if his behavior was extra good.  He also is close to having an ADHD dx meaning that the developmental pediatrician said she wasn't quite ready to label him that but was willing to medicate him for it- of course I declined- and while the kindergarden teacher had to give him and I a little more attention during the year to keep him on track, she never felt overwhelmed or unable to handle him and I think her ability to remind him that if he was good he would be rewarded at home helped that.

post #15 of 29

Darien, I can't give you any advice at all, since we just got my DD's dx a month or so ago and prior to that, I was just feeling lost and wondering what I could have done so wrong to make her act the way she does. I know that feeling of despair, though, and I also know how it feels to have someone sound critical of what you're saying/doing, even if they don't mean to. I just wanted to say that I understand how you feel. Having a difficult child is so incredibly exhausting, especially when no one can tell you what to DO. Good luck.

post #16 of 29

Also, you might be pleasantly surprised by public school.  Public schools have to work with kids with a variety of issues.  They have to put behavioral support plans in place for students who need them.  An increasing number of elementary schools have behavioral support programs in place for the entire student body.  If you have a school in your area that does PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support), your ds might really benefit from that program.  

 

Further, while I'm sure your counselor is good at something, it sounds like it's not cognitive behavioral therapy, which would be the modality of choice for most educators dealing with a behavior problem in a young child.  The goal of CBT is to teach the client to think through their choices, and to learn new behaviors that have more positive results than their old, "unsophisticated" responses.  Clients should feel empowered and gain an increasing sense of control over their behavior and their lives.  Your counselor is going in a weird direction that doesn't reflect a particularly good understanding of how to teach new behaviors or how children respond to punishment.  I'm not completely opposed to punishment (in psychology, punishment is anything that decreases the probability that a behavior will happen again), but it has to be a piece of a larger picture.  

post #17 of 29

I'm not sure exactly what sorts of consequences you have tried in the past.  I'm not a great believer in removing privileges unless they are directly related to the "bad" behavior.  So I'm much more "into" logical consequences.  If I can't explain the connection between behavior and consequence in less than 2-3 sentences, then its not a valid consequence, IMHO.  Have you tried something along these lines? If so, sorry to repeat things.

 

I agree that you have the right, actually duty, to question the approach your child's therapist suggests and to modify it to fit what you can and will practically do in your household.   He might be a professional but that doesn't mean he is always right and/or his recommendations (NOT requirements) aren't tinged by his own believes and biases.  If you really disagree, you might consider looking for someone you are more on the same page on.  I know I am overjoyed that my DS's counselor completely supports my approach to parenting.  You might not be able to control what the school does, but you certainly have the right to say yes or no to what you do in your own home.  Complicating that, of course, is trying to be as consistent as possible between you and ex if he has custody some of the time.

 

In your shoes, I would go back and ask a lot more questions about the potential for ADHD.  I think its supremely unfair to expect a child to behave in a way that might be impossible for him and to punish him for not being able to comply.  My DD has ADHD and I know that, when her meds aren't in place, there are simply things I cannot expect her to do because they just aren't possible at that moment.   We had to go to a psychiatrist to get a tentative diagnosis for ADHD, then an Rx for the appropriate medications.  I know that ADHD meds aren't all that popular around here, but they have literally changed her life at home, at school and her sports.  To me, asking her to do this without the meds would be cruel, as well as unrealistic and completely frustrating for both of us!  At least rule out the possibility of this before continuing your current approach, if only for your own peace of mind.

 

 

 

 

 

post #18 of 29

I'm sorry my post last night came across as snarky -- I was very tired when I wrote it and I don't think I clearly said what I meant.

 

The reason that I said that you seem to find is behavior adorable (which wasn't the best word choice I've ever made) is because of you describing his behavior as clowning around, and the amount of blame you place on others -- his teacher and the other students. Also the fact that his behavior at home isn't mentioned as a problem.  I read your post as saying that the school has a huge issue with his behavior, but you, not so much. You'd prefer it be different, but you aren't at the end of your rope.

 

I really have a hard time understanding from your post exactly how extreme his behavior is . For me, there is a disconnect between the fact that the school has demanded he go to counseling  and is bordering on kicking him out, and you not mentioning any problems with his behavior at home or in other situations.  It leaves me wondering if it he is the best school situation *for him*. There are some great catholic schools where i live, but they only work for kids who are round pegs in and go easily into round holes. Quirky kids just don't work there.

 

For *me,* there's plenty of room in GD for consistency and clear consequences. For my neuro-typical DD, that's been enough for generally good behavior. For my ASD dd, behavior is more complex, and *good* behavior requires her sensory needs be met and her anxiety be under control.

 

What is going on with his sensory issues and anxiety? How is the school dealing with them? During the school year, how much exercise is he getting each day? Is he in a focused activity, like swimming or martial arts or something?

post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post

 

In your shoes, I would go back and ask a lot more questions about the potential for ADHD.  I think its supremely unfair to expect a child to behave in a way that might be impossible for him and to punish him for not being able to comply.  My DD has ADHD and I know that, when her meds aren't in place, there are simply things I cannot expect her to do because they just aren't possible at that moment.   We had to go to a psychiatrist to get a tentative diagnosis for ADHD, then an Rx for the appropriate medications.  I know that ADHD meds aren't all that popular around here, but they have literally changed her life at home, at school and her sports.  To me, asking her to do this without the meds would be cruel, as well as unrealistic and completely frustrating for both of us!  At least rule out the possibility of this before continuing your current approach, if only for your own peace of mind.

 

 

 

 

 


Yes.

 

post #20 of 29

Can you try it a different way?

 

ANything above basic food and shelter is optional. IOW you dont have to provide anything not considered an necessity, They are earned.

 

Start him off with a bed, his luvie (comfort toy) and thats it, No TV, video games, no toys, nothing else. Healthy, well balanced meals, no ice cream or poscicles. Those are earrned. Basic back yard play, parks are earned.

 

Everything is earned based on positive interactions. That way you are never punishing for bad behaviour but rewarding good behaviour. Its a different way of getting the brain to think.

 

Kids dont just get these extras for existing. I know too many kids who think they deserve extras b/c they were born. Extras are just that. Extra. Then we spend too much time on implementing negative consequences instead of rewarding good behaviours.

 

IF he defys you, then he gets no extras that day. Back to basics.

 

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