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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Adding another food to the “Do Not Eat” list

We have had the busiest summer I can ever remember!   The boy turned six, we’ve traveled, we’ve had the flu, I’ve had jewelry parties, I’ve dabbled in cake baking, I’ve applied to the local college, etc.   We always enjoy traveling, but for the last three weeks the boy has had those tell-tale shiny eyes.  Along with the shiny eyes usually comes behaviors and difficulty sleeping.   It’s hard to detect behaviors on vacation, because we all tend to run around wearing loin cloths and being crazy when we’re camping and swimming and playing.  It’s hard to see sleep patterns when we don’t attempt to put our children down until our host’s children are ready for bed.   But once we came home and our schedules resumed, the ADHD symptoms were out of control.  Poor kid, I tried to have a conversation with the boy and it was like talking to Stevie Wonder!  He would look left, right, up, down, never stopping to glance at my eyes.  I saw him struggling and asked him to repeat a few things that I felt were important for him to actually hear.  He said, “I don’t know, can you tell me again?”  I’d tell him again and ask him to repeat.  He’d get it completely wrong.  I’d tell him again, but this time I would say a few words and ask him to repeat the words.   Wow, what is going on?  I haven’t allowed him to eat any dye, even on vacation.  His birthday cake was mostly white & natural colors, and the parts with food coloring were not served to the boy (let the other kids eat it- oops, not nice!)2013-07-05 22.52.19  So what is causing this?  I did some research on line, punching into the search bar the foods most consumed over the span of our vacation, and there it was.  TBHQ, short for tertiary butylhydroquinone, a food preservative used in McDonald’s chicken nuggets and other prepackaged foods.  Wow, my son and daughter consumed McDonalds chicken nuggets almost daily while on vacation!   What is this TBHQ, that seems to cause reactions in AHDH children?  Why, it is yet another “approved for human consumption” petroleum byproduct!

I understand that the FDA has tested the preservatives and dyes before approving them for human consumption.  I am not a consperecy theorist, I only know  what I am experiencng with my own child with rather severe ADHD.  And I see that my son is reacting to something that he is consuming, and once I remove these foods from his diet, he seems much more calm and better behaved.  According to the FDA, you should not consume more than 300+ McNuggets in any given day, it may cause nausea, dizzyness and confusion.  In other words, an infentescimally small ammount is allowed to be used in our foods.  But “I sees what I sees!”   We have removed products containing the preservative, TBHQ, for the last two weeks, and though ADHD is everpresent, the boy no longer appears to be compulsed to do and say naughty things as if he had no control at all.    In my opinion, if your child struggles with a disease or malady, it’s best not to exascurbate it.  No more McDonalds McNuggets for us.


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It’s Mom O’Clock somewhere

Every evening, at around 9 o’clock, I shuffle off the mom-suit and I shift back into a fully functioning human being, just when all my friends are hunkering down for the night.  I’m ready for adult conversations that I can actually listen to.  I am finally able to form a complete uninterrupted thought now that there aren’t children vying for my attention, playing in the cat bowl, spraying me with the hose, pulling good flowers from the flowerbed, leaving the gate open for baby to escape, squealing just to squeal…  I’m all ears, ready to listen, I can talk now.  Anybody?


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Our Trials With Medicine

We enrolled The Boy in the Young 5 program at the suggestion of his Preschool teacher.  She said that Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be when she first started teaching.  Kindergarten is more geared toward education and less geared to play, now.  As she described the new kindergarten, it sounded as if he would be expected to sit in his seat and pay attention, and the children would be marched around the gym [goose-stepping] instead of free-play.  She thought that this high energy boy would thrive in a less structured environment like the Young 5’s.   I cried.  All I could picture is that my son was going to be the oldest kid in his class on graduation day.  One friend reassured me that she was held back but ended up graduating on time, and with honers.  Another friend suggsted that the boy would have such an advantage, and would more likely be a leader than a follower.  The thought of my kid having an extra year to grow and mature before being thrust into academia won out over the possibility of him having to struggle and be stressed.  Actually, the one comment that made me decide was from my father-in-law, a man of few words and whom I respect and love very much.  I whined to him about my fears of my son getting his diploma just a month shy of his 19th birthday, and I mentioned that daddy and I both were already enrolled in college before we turned 18!  He said, with a smile on his face:  “And look how that turned out.”      [Ouch, but true.]

I got my first phone call after two days of school.  My boy was too active for the active-kid’s class.  *Sigh   By the end of week 1, I was in a meeting at the school to discuss his activity level.   The teacher assured me that he was a sweet and sensitive boy, who was full of empathy and compassion for his classmates…but that he was doing cartwheels on the rug during rug time.  He had absolutely no spacial boundaries and would get right into the other children’s faces until they pushed him away.   He was climbing over desks and accidentally knocking them over, she reminded me that he was not aggressive, just very very active.  Over the next two months we had “Connors Assessments” done by teachers, & family members.   We had observations done by the school psychologist, school occupational therapist (to help with sensory issues), and an outside (but contracted through the school) psychiatrist.   All of which suggested that our son would most definitely benefit from medication.   My husband wasn’t convinced.   Hubby took the “boys will be boys” stance.  He filled out his Connors test with mostly “No” and “Not often” where everybody else was saying “Yes” and “extremely often” on the same questions.   Lets face it, hubby thinks the boy poo’s rainbows!

At the end of October, and at the suggestion of 5 of the boy’s previous and current teachers and aids, a speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychiatrist (school’s), psychologist (ours), and our pediatrician, we started our first ADHD medicine.   It was the lowest dose of Metidate (methylphenidate 10mg).  The difference was immediate.  It was amazing to have a conversation with my son and actually have him make eye contact.  I hadn’t realized it before, but talking to the boy was much like talking to Stevie Wonder (picture head movements)—Boo!  Poor taste joke!   The new drug worked for a month or so and then the teacher called me up one day and asked if I had remembered to give him his medicine.  Yes, same time, same breakfast, same everything.  Apparently his body had gotten used to it.  Our pediatrician raised the dose to the next step up, 20mg.  The boy showed signs of OCD behavior the very first day.  After three days on the new dose, I got another phone call from the teacher.  She said the boy was very stressed if anything was out of order, or the other children did something that was against the rules.  She told me that he got up while she was teaching the class, and went to the white board and proceeded to put every student’s name card in a row all the way across the board.  Then when cleanup time came and went, the boy continued cleaning the floor until every speck of paper or fodder was cleaned off the aged school carpet.   There was no stopping him.  He absolutely HAD to do these things.   I called the boy’s pediatrician and he said, “Oh, that’s not good.” and prescribed the next drug.