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how do you discipline a bipolar child?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Seriously...how do you do it?  I feel like I've worried so much about consistancy that all I ever do is ride him and nitpick and overcorrect.  I'm so afraid that if I ignore the negative and praise the positive, the ignoring of the negative will be seen as tacit approval (he has a touch of narcissism and acts like he is the king of the world and can do no wrong and anyone who criticizes him is an unworthy idiot).

 

But then I keep reading blogs and articles and such that say that when it's obviously the disorder making them act "disobediently" you should just let it go because it truly is beyond their control.

 

If I start to refrain from gentle correction when ds uses a nasty tone of voice with me, or shoulder checks me into the wall, or starts breaking stuff up in his room, am I teaching him that those things are socially acceptable?  Where do I draw the line and give a consequence?

 

He is 9yo and extremely intelligent, if that matters.

 

TIA!

post #2 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by blessedwithboys View Post
But then I keep reading blogs and articles and such that say that when it's obviously the disorder making them act "disobediently" you should just let it go because it truly is beyond their control.


 

I think it is about balance, and I wonder if some of those articles are talking more about punishment than about gentle correction and re-direction. I don't think children should be punished because I don't think it's helpful, however, I do think that your efforts to gently teach your son how to treat other people are well advised.

 

Ultimately, if your son doesn't learn to control his behavior, he has no future. I do believe that bi-polar people can, with help, develop self control. There are some bi-polar moms her on Mothering, and at least one mom has mentioned that her DH is bi-polar. It is possible for some one with this disorder to learn to behave appropriately toward other people. It may be harder. It may require medications, but it can happen.

 

Is your son in counseling? My DD's issues are different, but when she was going through a very difficult phase and was seeing a counselor every week, the counselor and I would talk for a couple of minutes at the beginning of the session and she would help trouble shoot the specific kinds of issues we were seeing. We could talk about what worked and what didn't. It was EXTREMELY helpful to me to have that kind of specific input from an expert who knew my DD well about how to address DDs behavior.


Edited by Linda on the move - 9/12/11 at 7:17am
post #3 of 20

Along with bi-polar, Erica has OCD and social anxiety.  When she was out of control, she was sent to her room away from the family.  It's not as harsh as it sounds as that was what she needed and wanted even if she wasn't capable of realizing it during one of her episodes.  It gave her time to regain her self-control and usually resulted in a nap.  When she woke up, she was more in control and able to interact with others.  And it was always open ended; she could join us when she had control and felt ready to face people again.  Another thing I did was to keep life almost rigid for her.  Any deviation from what she was expecting triggered  anxiety which resulted in a melt down (her manic episodes were violent anger).  She required order and surprises, even good surprises like stopping for a treat on the way home from school, meant chaos.  Discipline (not a synonym for punishment) was very consistent.  There was no letting things go the first time.  And I let go of things that weren't really important and concentrated on the important, long term for life things.  Throwing/hitting stuffed animals, pillows, and her bed was ok.  Breaking things was not.  She needed to let out the violence, she went to her room and pounded her pillow.  She could use words to let us know how she felt and we helped her find the words.  To other people, she came across as being very disrespectful but they didn't know the whole story.  Because of the social anxiety, Erica was usually very well behaved in public; she saved everything up for at home where it was safe.  We also home schooled until she could cope with the classroom and she went to school when she felt she was ready.

post #4 of 20

I found discipline to be one of my most challenging issues raising a bipolar (bipolar, ADHD, tourettes, ODD) child. He is now 18. Nothing normal worked.  I would take these parenting classes or read a new book, or beg for advice from friends and eventually his doctors. It was so hard for me to judge what was his diagnosis's verses he was was just being cheeky. 

 

It is tricky.  Because the regular stuff doesn't work.  And patience is often at a premium. I think, looking back, one of the biggest ways I failed my son was with structure.  He need lots of it.  He was not flexible. And he had the meltdowns to prove it. 

 

If you have the time, contact http://www.nami.org/ .  Or the http://www.bpkids.org/?gclid=COyMtfubp6sCFccaQgodS3zc1A  .  That second link has some great articles and such.  

 

I think you hit the nail on the head.  There is such a struggle between not wanting to let things go because sometimes their behavior is so, so offensive.  And it seems wrong to just do nothing about it.  But sometimes you have to just walk away and say "nothing I do or say in this moment will change the disease or my kids thinking."  

 

As a mom to many, and my oldest being the one with Bi-polar, I have had to "let him get away" with stuff that would never fly from other kids.  And it feels wrong somehow.  And the other kids think it's unfair.  And it did feel that way, a lot. But you must choose your battles.

 

Hang in there. :)

post #5 of 20

BP's are overly sensitive to criticism.  The approach can not be in any way considered finger pointing.  Somethings need to be danced around but not let go.  Lots of praise with gentle reminders of why something really isn't ok.  Once they start freaking out and breaking things... leave them alone.  Let them get it out of their system. 

post #6 of 20

If you don't learn how to help your 9 year old get under control what are you going to do when he is a teen?!!

 

I was lucky that my bipolar son was my 3rd son and I was an experienced single mom. I knew I had to use effective parenting skills because by the time they were 10 they were bigger than me and they outnumbered me. You do not excuse bad behavior because "it's the disease."  That teaches the child to do that the rest of their life. You do not be gentle with a son. With the behaviors you are describing he may not be on the right meds or he may need counseling or both.

 

You use many of the same authoritative parenting skills you use with other kids you just have to do it more. You have to watch them all the time like they are 2 year olds in case they decide they can fly and jump off a balcony. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. Avoid punishment because it doesn't teach good behavior and it doesn't work.

 

 

post #7 of 20

Yes, of course there must be consequences to bad behavior/choices. But trying to discipline when they are in the middle of a rage attack or other type of melt down is pointless.  In that moment the goal should be to keep everybody safe, including them.  I think Imacerka said it very well. 

 

And sometimes you have to do tough love.  But with the bipolar child what works will always be changing and evolving.  What worked last month might not be effective today.

 

 

 

 

post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by foreverinbluejeans View Post

If you don't learn how to help your 9 year old get under control what are you going to do when he is a teen?!!

 

 

Why do you suppose the OP posted her question to begin with?!!    

 

 

 

The title of this thread is a question: how do you discipline a bipolar child? The original poster is requesting help to learn just exactly that, how to help her child.  So your sarcastic tone, emphasized by extra exclamation points, was completely off-putting.   I don't know about the OP, but I didn't absorb anything you wrote after your introductory sentence. 

 

When reading a post by a mama who is distressed and asking for help or just sympathy, it is really, REALLY important for a person to read the post carefully, so that their advice isn't redundant and therefore completely useless, and so that their tone isn't contemptuous of the human being on the other side of the computer who is asking for help.

post #9 of 20

I'm not going to bash you.  I just wanted to say that maybe you find your way affective maybe it works for your family.  However there are degrees of BP's... some hate that they lash out the way they do and feel guilt.  Knowing what they did was wrong and feeling guilt is enough punishment in my book.  The whole point of discipline is to help them understand that there are appropriate ways to handle things and inappropriate ways to handle them.  You can't "GOOD MOM" the "disease" right out of them.  If I could do that I would "GOOD WIFE" the "disease" right out of my husband. 

 

BP's are hypersensitive, they need help learning to deal with their emotions.  They know things are not right.  They don't need to be hounded and treated as if they are untrusted.  The first thing the OP needs to do is figure out his triggers.  What sets him off.  Once she can do that she can then try to eliminate them.  Or keep them to a minimum.  That will help with the outbursts. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by foreverinbluejeans View Post

If you don't learn how to help your 9 year old get under control what are you going to do when he is a teen?!!

 

I was lucky that my bipolar son was my 3rd son and I was an experienced single mom. I knew I had to use effective parenting skills because by the time they were 10 they were bigger than me and they outnumbered me. You do not excuse bad behavior because "it's the disease."  That teaches the child to do that the rest of their life. You do not be gentle with a son. With the behaviors you are describing he may not be on the right meds or he may need counseling or both.

 

You use many of the same authoritative parenting skills you use with other kids you just have to do it more. You have to watch them all the time like they are 2 year olds in case they decide they can fly and jump off a balcony. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. Avoid punishment because it doesn't teach good behavior and it doesn't work.

 

 



 

post #10 of 20

How we discipline our bipolar son depends on his stability level, his triggers, etc.  When he is mostly stable, doing well then we will discipline him for things and hold him to a higher standard (we discipline by sending to room and also removing privileges).  When he is unstable we don't hold him to the same standard in what he says and does as we would with a "normal" child.  We know that it is the disease causing it and we just try as hard as we can to remove all potential triggers and keep him as calm as possible.  He hasn't had a rage in a long time but when he did he would always feel extreme guilt afterwards and sob hysterically and we certainly weren't going to give him extra punishment of any type after that.

 

On another note - are you sure he's on the correct med combo?  I know it is really hard to stabilize kids and sometimes you have to tweak the meds. I believe that you should expect stability and if he doesn't have it you need to try something else.  My son is on a med combo that has him stable.  There are still minor issues and we will always have to deal issues but he is stable and living a fairly normal (and calm) life.  Talk to your doctor and see what they think about that.

post #11 of 20

My son has Aspergers and when I first found out, I used this as an 'explanation' for his every behaviour. But I soon realised, or should I say had abruptly pointed out to me by a friend who dares honesty over politeness, that I would indeed just breed an arrogant little so and so that nobody would ever tolerate.

I prefer positive praise and try this most of the time. However, sometimes, regardless of us having whatever condition, we need to be told that how we treat others is unacceptable. If what he does upsets you, you need to tell him and remove something from him he holds dear (not something to dear though, like his fave item, then he will have no reason not to misbehave) but there has to be a consequence to actions, because as much as we adore our child and can forgive them, nobody else will.

If they want any chance in this world of making friends, we have to show them how to treat others...regardless of their condition.

Sorry guys if I sound harsh, but I have learnt excusing and cotton woolling does not help them, and we are their parents, killing them softly will not do.

 

I am sure you are an ace mum and doing fab...after all you realise you are blessedwithboys :D

 

 

post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks to everyone who has posted.  I've been away from this thread because I decided to just sort of check out of this topic for a bit.  Ds was on meds but they obviously weren't working and so his ARNP sent him to her supervising Md who summed him in 5 minutes: Total Brat.  And me?  Neurotic Mother.  He took ds off his meds, ds is rapid-cycling, totally irritable, and extremely destructive.  So now I'm back to square one looking for a care-provider.

 

FWIW, I asked the ARNP and she told me I was absolutely dead-on to be right on top of him all the time, never budging an inch when he acted up.  So I kept on keeping on.  The dr. saw me doing just what his nurse told me to do and called me an "OCD helicopter control freak".  Maybe I'll try a female pdoc next time around, in an effort to avoid misogyny.

 

And ds has been in weekly therapy for nearly 18 months, with no improvement.  His new therapist is also a behavior analyst who thinks all he needs is a rigid to-the-minute schedule.  I sense it's about to get much worse around here!

post #13 of 20

Holy cow! What kind of MD was he??  Was he a child psychiatrist? Was he even a regular psychiatrist? Or was he just some general practitioner?   I'm sorry you (and your child, for pity's sake) didn't get any useful help.  

 

Bipolar disorder is notoriously difficult to medicate in children, so it's not surprising his medication didn't work.  Time to try a different medication.  And a different doctor, no doubt! 

 

Many hugs to you.  You've got a challenging job, but your son is lucky to have you!

post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by blessedwithboys View Post

FWIW, I asked the ARNP and she told me I was absolutely dead-on to be right on top of him all the time, never budging an inch when he acted up.  So I kept on keeping on.  The dr. saw me doing just what his nurse told me to do and called me an "OCD helicopter control freak".  Maybe I'll try a female pdoc next time around, in an effort to avoid misogyny.

 

jaw2.gif
 

 

post #15 of 20

They always call us mums something, overprotective, over controlling, under disciplining, maybe it is because we get passed from so called ,specialist' to so called 'specialist', all of them telling us what to do, and contradicting the other... F**k them and trust you :D 

 

post #16 of 20

That's true.  It wasn't too long ago that refrigerator mothers were responsible for creating autism in their children. 

post #17 of 20

I recommend the book The Explosive Child if you haven't seen it already.

 

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_7_4/192-1555769-0836039?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=explosive+child&sprefix=expl

 

Not for the parenting strategies as much as the over arching attitude that children will do well if they can, and the real cause of most misbehavior with our kids is lagging skills. Not simplistic skills like politeness or saying please, but the executive function to cope with a change of plans or disappointment for example. This outlook changes the whole dynamics of parenting special needs kids, particularly with mental health issues and autism spectrum, and is explained much better in the book than I can here.

 

 

post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 

This was child psychiatrist.

 

I read The Explosive Child a few years ago when I thought ds was jsut plain ol' run of the mill difficult.  I might re-read it but for now I'm reading a book from the director of a pediatric mood disorder clinic at U of IL or some such school.  She's really speaking to me and I think I'm going to see about getting ds an appt there.  Today he raged for over 2 hours straight over being bored and not liking any of the activity suggestions I made.

post #19 of 20
nono02.gifI am seriously at my wits end with my 11 year old who is bipolar. He fights and fights to get his way when he is grounded and has things taken away from him and then he picks on his 8 year old autistic brother. He is super mean to me and my partner, and is making life so hard for everyone in the house! He has been in residential treatment already and it didn't seem to help. HE ALWAYS says he has nothing to do even tho he has a tablet, MP3 player, a cell phone, and an xbox, and he never wants to stay home with the family, and I have heard the words I hate you so much that I actually believe him. What can I do? I am at a loss. He has Tss worker and a mobile therapist, but it isn't helping at all.
post #20 of 20

Grounding and taking things are forms of authoritarian parenting. Authoritatian parenting has lots of negative consequences in all children, it is an especially ineffective form of parenting with children/teens with bipolar disorder. Under the best of situations it fails to promote good behavior. What it does with typical kids is make them resent their parents, lie and behave worse. It can drive them to hate their home/parents/family, especially chrildren with bipolar disorder. Imagine how you would feel if someone grounded you or took your things away. 

 

There may be parenting classes in your community that aren't based on authoritarian parenting. 

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