Disciplining my son has always been so difficult for me because I believe that his behavior is sometimes fueled by impulses that he can not control, especially as a five-year-old. I never know if he is the world’s most strong willed child, or if he Just Can Not Quit the behavior. What makes me think that it could possibly be an issue of his ability to control himself, is because I practice consistency to the point where I’m almost obsessive about it. I’ve seen the results of parenting without following through on “threats.” Woe to the parent of the child who isn’t afraid of consequences! And for a while, it was “woe to me” because no matter how consistent I was with the timing and type of consequence, the boy would push it one step past the proverbial “line in the sand”, and force me to discipline him. He just Had to say it, touch it, do it, that one last time… it was as if he just could not help himself, as if he were compulsed by impulses!
I found myself wondering why anyone would not just stop! Why they would push until the threshold of tolerance was crossed and they’d end up in time out, every time! I do remember when I was quite young, I was excitedly bouncing on our family friends’ couch. I was told to quit, I was told to quit bouncing a second time, and then their grandpa lightly swatted my behind. I was hurt and humiliated that this grandfather figure had gotten so stern with me, why hadn’t I just stopped when he told me to? I can tell you from experience, the person with ADD/ADHD has a hard time actually hearing and processing a command. My brain was so busy going “Weee…Weeee, this is fun!” that I didn’t even hear the first command to stop bouncing on the couch. In fact, it was probably just starting to register that a command was even said when the swat on the behind came (and no, it didn’t hurt… just my ego.) This is why you will often hear me repeat a command three times in quick succession to the boy. I know #1. that he’s most likely not going to hear the first command, and the processing will start with the second command, and recognition happens with the third repetition. And #2. He moves so darn fast! If I don’t get his attention very quickly, he’s gone out of earshot.
Because of my personal experiences with ADD, I have this ability to identify with my son, and I think it helps me to be more patient with him at times. But it may also be causing more internal confusion. For instance, if I had no idea what ADD was all about, I might just set rules and follow them strictly. In stead, I find myself struggling with “is this an impulse or is he being directly defiant?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to allow unacceptable behavior to continue because I think it may be fueled by impulses, or sugar, or food dyes and additives. But there have been times in the past where the boy has spent a good chunk of the day in his room because he just can’t seem to behave for even a few minutes at a time. Maybe what he really needed was a “reset,” and to have some extra special time with mom, but instead I was Mrs. Followthrough. These are the times when the fine line between disciplining and understanding, correcting and comforting are blurred and confusing. All I can tell you that this is all a learning experience, and that I’m sure I’ve crossed, stepped on, tripped over, and fallen onto that fine line.