Following Bunny Trails

“I don’t have ADD, it’s just that…OhLookAKitty!”


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Psychoanalyzing Life’s Crappy Parenting Moments

Hello readers!  It’s been a long time since the last post in Following Bunny Trails.  As I wrote in a few previous posts, I have decided to go back to college.  And as I’ve been barreling full speed ahead, I often think of my Bunny Trails and its readers.  But going to school full time, year-around, has left me little free time.  So I would like to offer up a bit of my writing from my Intro to Psychology class.  This piece was asked for us to analyze a situation that was stressful and to write about what you might have changed, and what you would not have changed.  With citations and sources, of course.  This was written over a year ago, and I just found it today.  It is perfect for Following Bunny Trails.

Observing Emotional Behavior

Summary

I knew it was a bad idea from the beginning.  I had a lunch date with my friend, they were becoming few and far between.  She and I had first met when our sons were 2-years-old and attending a local education center for therapy.  Her son was ahead of schedule with his speech, but was there to refine his motor skills, and while my son had all the motor skills of a gymnast, he could hardly say a word.  We were fast friends.  She has a degree in early childhood education, so I glean as much advice as I can from her.  She is familiar with children with ADHD, and is patient and loving with my son.  When the opportunity for a lunch date arose, I leapt at the chance.  Her son had school, but since the boys attended in different schools, mine had a teacher in-service.  I had to bring my children along on our lunch date.  Lunch went as well as it could, with my daughter in her high chair, and my son blocked on the inside of our booth.  He only crawled under the table a dozen times, his best restaurant behavior yet.  When Josie suggested going to Kohl’s afterward, I immediately stiffened up.  My son hasn’t had a successful shopping trip in a long time.  He was behaving relatively well at the restaurant, and I did have a 30% discount coupon burning a hole in my pocket, so we gathered my children and headed to the store.

 

I gave my son the usual, “please behave in this store, use your inside voice, no running or you’ll have to ride in the cart,” pre-shopping lecture.  He either misunderstood or was tired, and he immediately climbed into a cart with two seats.  I didn’t argue, and I pushed both kids through the store.  I picked out some Marvel Super Hero underwear that he desperately needed, and he begged for a shirt with a trophy on it, so he could be a “winner.”  About 15 minutes into the shopping, he began to start squirming in his seat.  He climbed out to get a better look at a shirt, and I cajoled him back into the cart; we were coming to the end of his ability to be in the store.  There’s something about the lights, the sounds, all the merchandise with the colors and stimulus, it just sets him off every time.  I headed to the checkout because I knew my time was up.  My son started grabbing merchandise as we strolled by it, once causing us to nearly collide with a very unappreciative lady and her well behaved daughter.  I started warning my son of the impending removal of privileges, starting with the activities I dislike the most, his video games.  It was pointless, he was gone:  my son had left the proverbial building, and the only thing left was impulses gone awry.  Threats weren’t working, his behavior was deteriorating by the moment.  I decided, out loud, that I could and would not reward this type of behavior by purchasing nice new super hero undies or a new shirt.  He did not heed my warnings, and I ditched the underwear on a shelf.  He saw me bailing out his precious items from our cart, and went ballistic.  By the time we reached the checkout lane, he was screaming, crying, and then he leapt from the cart and ran out of the store and into the mall.  I was completely humiliated, angry, sweaty and red faced, as I ditched the few remaining purchases and handed my daughter to Josie so I could, pursue my son, who had disappeared around the corner.  I had to carry the screaming, thrashing 6-year-old, who made a scene all the way out the doors.

Interpretation

I have never been very good at disguising my emotions, as suggested by Thomas Phelan, author of 1-2-3 Magic:  Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (Phelan, 2010).  He states that “The two biggest mistakes that parents and teachers make in dealing with children are: Too Much Talking and Too Much Emotion.” According to Phelan, discipline should be a “matter of fact” process, the child is suffering a consequence because they made the wrong choice, not because you are angry at them.  He also repeatedly mentions that children feed off our emotions, and if they can figure out how to “get your goat” they will (Phelan, 2010).  By the time Josie met me outside the building, I was nearly in tears, with a howling wreck of a child on my lap.  She calmly took my son, and handed my daughter to me.  She put him on her lap and hugged him tight until he calmed enough to hear her speak.  She spoke softly and reminded him how much his mommy loved him, and then she somehow managed to change the subject and got him to talk to her about stickers.  She promised him a sticker, they were in the trunk of her car, which was parked right next to mine.  I buckled him up, without a word, and turned around in my seat and sat clutching the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white.  I counted to ten, then to twenty, while she gave my son a sticker, which I had to fight the impulse to wrench it out of his hands and tear the sticker into bits.  He didn’t deserve that sticker after his behavior, ie. what he had just put me through.  My daughter must have been stunned by the whole incident, but she finally “came to” as I pulled out of the parking lot.  She started crying, and no offer of her sippie cup, stuffed animal, or snack would calm her.  I turned the radio on and drove home with a wailing daughter, and pouting son.

Discussion

Now that the incident is past, and I am no longer flooded with emotion, I can look back and identify some mistakes that I had made while under duress.  First of all, children’s tantrums are generally short lived, they go on with their lives and resume play, while the parents’ are left to stew about it.  I regret that I allowed my frustration to show and for my anger to last after the conflict was over.  Our textbook, Psychology, an Exploration by Saundra K. Ciccarelli and J. Noland White, explains that a human’s autonomic nervous system involuntarily reacts physiologically to stress.  The sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the fight or flight response) reacts by secreting the hormone cortisol, which in turn raises heart rate, stimulates the sweat glands, slows down digestion, and sends energy to muscles to deal with the situation (Ciccarelli & White, 2010).   This is why I was sweaty and red-faced, even though I remained relatively composed during the episode in the store, the cortisol may have also been a contributing factor as to why it took a while for me to “get over” the incident.  My second regret was that I had thought that threatening to lose his precious purchases would motivate him into good behavior, and once it didn’t work, I felt it necessary to follow through with my “threat.”  My emotional state in the store clouded my judgment, and I now realize that by using the loss of his purchases as punishment, I was only adding to his frustration, and making a child who is already feeling out of control, feel even more so.  When under pressure, it is easy to forget what we know, that children this age are not able to think logically, and revert to our emotional response of, “why isn’t his reward enough motivation to make him behave?”   I later apologized to Josie for inadvertently making the situation worse.  She explained that a young child has an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, which regulates emotion and social behavior, and when they are having a temper tantrum, the thought process is moved from this “rational” region of the brain, to the more “primal” part of the limbic system, the amygdala.  I found an article on Parenting.com that supports Josie’s explanation of my son’s thought process during a tantrum.  The author of the e-article, P. Onderko, states that the prefrontal cortex is just beginning to mature at age 4.  She further explains that children think “magically, not logically,” and that events that are ordinary for us, may be confusing or scary for a child.  Water draining from a bathtub, for example, may trigger a fear that they could be sucked into the drain along with the water.

In conclusion, though I readily admit that I made mistakes in this situation, there were a few things that I would probably not have changed, given a chance to do it all over again.  Though my body became sweaty and red-faced, I did not scream or physically threaten my son.  I remained as calm as possible, even though it was obvious that I was emotionally distressed.  I knew that I did not have time to stop and use “counting” as a stress coping mechanism.  All of my previous experiences with my son told me that I needed to remove him from the store as soon as possible.  I learned from previous failures not to attempt to take him into the bathroom and calm him, because the echo of the bathroom stimulates him even more.  I did use counting and music to calm myself, and the music eventually soothed my daughter on the ride home from the store.  I have sought out ways to improve our next shopping trip, and I am considering trying the suggestion by T. Phelan.  He states you can enforce a good behavior by giving a child a set amount of money to spend at the store, make sure to give it to them in dollars and quarters, and then tell them that they will lose $.25 or $.50 for each outburst, or undesirable behavior (Phelan, 2010).  He recommends this for an age where money actually has a value; my son is getting there, he knows that money buys toys and treats.  This might work better for a long car ride to a vacation destination, but I am unsure if this will work on a shopping trip.  ADHD complicates our specific situation because once he becomes stimulated, any rational thought processes that a 6-year-old has, is completely drowned out by his state of restlessness and anxiety from the stimulation, so for now, we are only chancing very brief trips to the local market.

 

Works Cited

 

Ciccarelli, S. K., & White, J. N. (2010). Psychology: An exploration. (2nd ed., p. 319). Pearson Education Inc.

Onderko, P. (2011, November). Why toddlers throw temper tantrums. Retrieved from                       http://www.parenting.com/article/toddler-temper-tantrums

 

Phelan, T. W. (2010). 1-2-3 magic: effective discipline for children 2-12. (4th ed.). Parentmagic, Inc.        Retrieved from http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter/Newsletter-April-2013

 

 

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Compulsed by Impulses

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.


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Just Who’s Being Punished Here?

I was relieved when my son was old enough to put him in his room for time outs.  The naughty chair was not working.  I was just not equipped to ignore the flagrant attempts to get my attention from the time out spot; it was a huge source of frustration for me, and I think he might have known it.  Children have this innate sense of knowing just how to “get Mom and Dad’s goat!”

I mentioned in a previous post that at age 3 we incorporated “counting” into our discipline routine, apparently it tells the child just how long they have to keep up their behavior before punishment ensues.  So far we have discovered that we were never going to get the boy to sit still and do his time out “like a man,” because even way way before the official diagnosis of ADHD, we knew that he was completely unable to sit still.  He never had a “normal” response to spankings, he didn’t wince or cry or even change his course of action at all.  All spanking did was satisfy some need to let him know that he did not get away with his misdeed just because we allowed him to do cartwheels in his naughty chair for 3 minutes.  (The spanking is as satisfying as a Snicker’s bar:  your teeth ache, your stomach hurts, and you’re pissed at yourself for your lack of self control!)  We did find an effective discipline though.   The room.  The boy hated being put in his room with the door shut.  Even with the lights on, and a room full of toys, it was that separation from us and not being able to garner our attention, that really made the punishment terrible… all three minutes of it.

We counted, 1,2,3, go to your room.  We escorted him into his room and shut the door.   Now here’s the part where my opinion is different  than the opinion in most of the books that I read.  The boy would rage, and pound on the door, or throw toys at the door.  The books say to let them rage, the time out doesn’t start until they’re quiet.  I don’t believe that my 3-year-old should be allowed to rage and damage his toys or our door.  What happens when the child turns 15 and is still raging?  He or she damages computer or gaming equipment in stead of Spiderman figurines, holes in walls, fights with other children?  Rage is one of the few human emotions that society still expects us to stuff down and keep under control.  Nope, I’m going to count to three and if you’re still raging, you get a spanking.  Sorry folks if you disagree, but I’ve never heard of a person lying on a psychotherapist’s couch or climbing into a tower and gunning down students because they were spanked on rare occasions when they were completely out of control, and no other thing is going to get their attention at this point than a smack on the bottom with mom or dad’s bare hand.

Even though the book has been out for years, we had never heard of “1,2,3 Magic” until recently.   We were just doing our best with what we knew.  Come to find out, there’s a section devoted just to those challenging kids who rage when put into their room.  The book lovingly calls them “Room Wreckers.”   It suggests to remove all valuables, or special memories that may get destroyed, remove all objects that can cause junior harm & let them go to town.  You gently remind them that the time out starts when they’re quiet, after they finally calm down, you set the timer like usual.  The trick is that you don’t clean up after they trash the place, that only gives them the glee of getting to destroy your hard work the next time they’re put in their room.  At bedtime you let them try to find their bed and sleep in it “as is.”  Apparently the discomfort and disarray is a very good lesson in itself.  The next day you make them clean it up, with your assistance of course.   The book even includes advice for the, shall we call them, the excreters.   If your child is one that decided to “teach you a lesson” and potty on the floor, he/she can do the time out in the bathroom (make sure all medicines, cleaners and poisons are childproofed), simply because it’s easier to clean up.

Footnote:  This 1,2,3 method seems to work best with our child, one of my friends uses the Love and Logic method because it works with her son, and another friend uses the Nurtured Heart Approach with her son because it fits their personalities the best.  Each child responds differently to discipline and training, and unfortunately we all blunder and make mistakes.


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It Must be Working

I still chuckle to myself when I remember a humorous incident during a vacation to my girlfriend’s hometown.   We were walking to the park that sits at the beginning of downtown Douglas, Michigan’s quaint artisan district.  There was a group of friends enjoying some cocktails on the bistro’s patio in the beautiful spring evening.  They were good naturedly poking fun at the parents they hear at the park, degrading themselves as they yell to little Johnny, “One!  Two!…”   The ironic thing about this, is that when the guy loudly said, “One!”  My 4-year-old came to a complete halt!  He stopped dead in his tracks!  Well, I guess that’s proof that our 1,2,3 system is working.


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Sensory Overload

I just had a conversation with the boy’s teacher.  There is a end of year  “program” that the Young 5 children are putting on, it is for parents to attend in the evening.  As gently as she could possibly put it, teacher suggested it might not be the best idea for the boy to be there.  I was just about to tell her that I didn’t think he should go to it anyway (I knew that there was huge potential for him to ruin it for himself and possibly others by being out of control), but it still stinks to hear her agree.  He now only attends school for half the day and  has taken several whole days off, so he’s not been practicing like the other children.   Plus, I found out that while the children were in the gym practicing raising and lowering the big colorful parachute in unison, and learning short lines for their presentation, my son was running around the gym like a wild maniac.  He’d run under the parachute whenever it was raised, or would jerk his handhold down while the kids were raising their portion of the parachute.  The teacher, fearing the expensive parachute getting ripped, had to separate the boy from the rest of the group.   By the end of their time in the gym, my son was clamping his hands over his ears and hollering at the top of his lungs.  Thankfully, his teacher has given him the benefit of the doubt all throughout the year (his being a sweet kid has helped) and suggested that she thinks he was doing it to drown out the noise and echo from the gym.  Unacceptable, nonetheless.

I have always known that the boy was easily stimulated by bright lights, large buildings and noises, but this year has shown me beyond a shadow of a doubt.  When the boy is around 7 months old, I took him to Ikea with a girlfriend.  Oh my gosh was this baby cute, I’m not just saying this because he’s mine, honestly.  We’d get all kinds of comments and “awwww”s from people passing by.   After about 2 hours of shopping in the giant warehouse, baby boy started fussing.  By the time we had gotten near the checkout, he was fully screaming at the top of his lungs!  No bottle, no cuddling, no snack, nothing would calm this baby down.  The cute “awwww”s had turned into dirty looks & I ended up abandoning my purchases and heading out to the car to pull it up for my friend.  Baby boy screamed for the entire hour and 20 minutes home.  He was completely overstimulated, no doubt about it.  Since then we’ve suffered meltdowns at just about every “super” grocery store, most malls, toy stores, you name it.

This year he was in a class with 22 children, including 4 or 5 other boys much like him.  His class is noisy!   At the beginning of the year, before any testing or final diagnosis was made about ADHD, the teacher attempted many different sensory tactics to calm the boy.  Among  them was a vinyl blue puppy that was full of heavy sand; she would place the weighted puppy in his lap to produce a sense of security and calmness.  He liked it at first, but then I think the novelty wore off.  They attempted rubber bands (like exercise bands) around the legs of his chair, something for him to fidget with; hand fidgets, an exercise ball in stead of a chair (this was played with too much, and he kept “prat-falling” off it), and a rounded inflatable disc that you place on the chair and the child sits on to slightly throw off core balance, causing the sitter to have to concentrate in order to stay upright… my boy fell over a lot.  I tell ya’, they get an “A” for effort!  I honestly just think the boy is too overstimulated in this classroom.  He doesn’t run around like a maniac or clap his hands over his ears and scream at a playground or park filled with children.  The school psychologist, who is testing him to make sure he’s academically on the mark- and he is, has told me that after he takes a few minutes to calm down, he seems to be much much less “stimulated” since we removed the ADHD medicine.  So for the time being, I will not take the boy shopping unless I absolutely have to.  And I am seriously considering home schooling next year.


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Not up to School’s Standards

The boy has not been able to attend school for an entire day ever since the doctor told us to take him off all ADHD medicines.  We took several days off of school after the Psychotic Break.  It was actually difficult to convince him to go back.  On his first day back, they sent him home after lunch, or was it before, I don’t remember.   He was just too hyper and disrupted the class to the point where no teaching was getting done.   I was asked by the school, “when is his psychiatrist appointment?”   Right, more drugs is the answer.   What if I don’t want to experiment on my son any more?  The teacher suggested I bring the boy in after lunch when the kids have recess then some learning and social time.  At least that way he will be able to finish out the year without his last experience being a terrible one, and him ending up hating school.  Though the first half-day went well, they called and asked me to pick him up at the end of the second day because he was too wild to put on the bus.  The third day went well, but I have a feeling that they have given up on actually educating the boy, and have just settled for getting him through the time.  I became suspicious when the boy described how he colored pictures for the teachers and the other children. Uh oh, I noticed that he hasn’t had any of the usual photocopied papers with the number  or letter of the day either.

English: A child not paying attention in class.

English: A child not paying attention in class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if we can get him to an acceptable level of energy for home, but he doesn’t live up to the school’s standards and rules?  I know that  the State of Michigan’s department of education mandates that my child has a right to an education, and that whatever accommodations need to be made to get this done, so be it.  But do I really want to fight this battle?  Does this “right to an education” really apply to a child who has already graduated from preschool, isn’t this only for K-12?  So we pick this battle up again in the fall, when the boy goes back to kindergarten, or I can teach him here at home, where he has the opportunity to learn when his brain will allow him to be calm enough to take in information and be allowed to be a wild maniac when his brain is driving him on impulses.


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It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…

It’s a bird…It’s a plane…No, It’s my son after eating Superman ice cream!

We attended a kiddie birthday party this weekend, which is challenging to keep up with the no-dye-in-the-boy’s-food rule.  I think he ate 2 m&m’s before I whisked the bowl away from him.  He drank some green punch too, but he was no more a maniac then any of the other children at the party.   Sunday, however, was a different story!   After a round of father and son disc golf, daddy bought the boy a superman ice cream cone.  Yikes!   It took us over 2 hours to put the boy to bed!  He was calling himself “stupid” and saying things like “stupid boys don’t sleep.”   I asked him, “what did you eat tonight?”  He listed off everything but the ice cream, of course.  I asked, “did you have ice cream?”  “Oh yeah, I forgot,” he says.  “What kind of ice cream did you have?”  He surprised me by responding:  “the kind with all the food coloring in it.”  I ventured another question, “do you think maybe you’re feeling bad and

Superman ice cream

Superman ice cream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

having trouble sleeping tonight because of the dye in the ice cream?”  He states defiantly, “No, it was good…and so was the kit kat!”     Oh geez!  (*rests forehead in palm of  hands, in defeat)