Category Archives: parenting

When parents disagree on discipline

When parents disagree on discipline
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Your primary relationship comes first

Stress can affect the most solid relationships. Families like yours, with a troubled child, have a higher divorce rate than the general population, 50% higher. Coping with your child will bring out any and all relationship issues that may have been manageable under normal circumstances. If your relationship is falling apart, and it was mostly healthy before this period of stress, then it must be a priority over the child for now. Get counseling, if not together than singly. Or ask for help from supportive friends–prayers, cheerleading, or the opportunity to vent. Partners must stand by each other and present a solid front as the family leaders. This is just as important for your child as it is for you. Let this draw you closer together rather than pull you apart.

Stand strong, shoulder-to-shoulder

When you disagree, together make a list of the things you agree on and worry about the disagreements later. This list should include:

  • Focus on your respective strong points.  Each make a list strengths of the other.
  • Never argue in front of the children (or, make a rule for how and where to argue).  This creates many problems that worsen your child’s behavior.  Stress is obvious.  But what about kids who manipulate their parents to get their way with something?  What about those that thrive on chaos?
  • An agreed-upon role for each parent, which is something that they’re good at.  When one parent is competent at handling a specific challenge, the other steps back, and vice versa.
  • Take turns managing the household for a period while the other takes a break.
  • Set aside personal feelings temporarily to co-manage one specific little problem at a time, a problem you both agree on.

Have each other’s back

A true story with names changed: Susan and her daughter Pam were constantly fighting over who hurt who the most by what each said. Jason, the husband and father, was frustrated by these conflicts, but avoided interfering because he knew he’d upset both his wife and daughter. Yet Jason was always able to calm Pam down quickly because their relationship was different. One day, Jason took his wife aside and asked that they try something. He suggested that Susan step back from certain daily interactions with Pam, those which always ended in fights, and let him do the communicating. Susan did not like the idea that Pam had “won” by getting all of her dad’s attention, nor did she like the implication she couldn’t handle their daughter! But Jason came up with idea that if he saw Susan and Pam slipping into a fight, he would use a code phrase, like “Hey dear, can you help me find the _____?”, and Susan would catch herself, save face by stepping out to look for the ____, and let Dad take over. This worked wonders rather quickly. Nothing was ever discussed openly, but after a few weeks, both mother and daughter started to catch themselves starting a fight, and one or both would find some reason to step away from the situation.

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Filed under defiant children, discipline, parenting

Help your child or teen ‘recover’ from a disorder or addiction

Help your child or teen ‘recover’ from a disorder or addiction
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What recovery looks like – A person with a mental or emotional disorder who is in “recovery” lives a normal life and aren’t affected by their disorder.  They look and act normal.  At the least, they have stable relationships, a steady job, a place to live, a regular diet, cleanliness, and regular mental health check-ins.  Recovery is maintained when the person pays attention to themselves to notice if the symptoms are starting, and then takes action to stop the symptoms.

Recovery is like the alcoholic who stops drinking–they still have an addiction, but they stop using.

What your child will need to sustain recovery as an adult:

INSIGHT  +  STABILITY  +  RESILIENCE

INSIGHT– self awareness

Insight allows a child to recognize they have a problem, and choose to act to avoid the problem.  If insight is not possible, they need a toolbox of options that help them to respond appropriately, instead of reacting to chaotic messages in their brain. Knowing and admitting they have a problem, or knowing techniques for avoiding problems, are very powerful skills they need as adults.

STABILITY – fewer falls or softer falls

Your child is like a boat that’s easier to tip over than most other boats; any little wave will capsize them, and everyday life is full of waves, big and small.  Your job is to notice when the troubled child is starting to capsize and show them how to right the boat, or if that doesn’t work, how to use the lifesaver.  Eventually, your child will learn how to sense when trouble is coming on, avoid the thing that causes problems, and ask others for help.  Sense it.  Avoid it.  Ask for Help.

RESILIENCE – bounce back when they fall

Troubled children have a much harder time bouncing back from problems.  They have extreme responses to simple disappointments like breaking a toy, or poor grades, or something as serious as the parents’ divorce.  Some even fall apart in joyous times because the emotional energy is too much!  You must be acutely aware of this–they will not get back on track by themselves.  Don’t worry that helping them will spoil them or “enable” them.  Eventually they will learn from you how you do it.

“…We are all born with an innate capacity for resilience, by which we are able to develop social competence, problem-solving skills, a critical consciousness, autonomy, and a sense of purpose.”

“Several research studies followed individuals over the course of a lifespan and consistently documented that between half and two-thirds of children growing up in families with mentally ill, alcoholic, abusive, or criminally involved parents, or in poverty-stricken or war-torn communities, do overcome the odds and turn a life trajectory of risk into one that manifests “resilience,” the term used to describe a set of qualities that foster a process of successful adaptation and transformation despite risk and adversity…”   http://www.athealth.com

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Filed under bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, mental illness, parenting, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, teenagers, teens

Your troubled child’s “recovery”–how you help them achieve it

Your troubled child’s “recovery”–how you help them achieve it
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What recovery looks like – A person with a mental or emotional disorder who is in “recovery” can look and act like anyone else.  At the least, they have stable relationships, a steady job, a place to live, a regular diet, cleanliness, and regular mental health check-ins.  Recovery is maintained when the person pays attention to themselves to notice if the symptoms are starting, and then takes action to stop the symptoms.

What your child will need to sustain recovery as an adult:

INSIGHT  +  STABILITY  +  RESILIENCE

INSIGHT– self awareness

Insight allows a child to recognize they have a problem, and choose to act to avoid the problem.  If insight is not possible, they need a toolbox of options that help them to respond appropriately, instead of reacting to chaotic messages in their brain. Knowing and admitting they have a problem, or knowing techniques for avoiding problems, are very powerful skills they need as adults.

STABILITY – fewer falls or softer falls

Your child is like a boat that’s easier to tip over than most other boats; any little wave will capsize them, and everyday life is full of waves, big and small.  Your job is to notice when the troubled child is starting to capsize and show them how to right the boat, or if that doesn’t work, how to use the lifesaver.  Eventually, your child will learn how to sense when trouble is coming on, avoid the thing that causes problems, and ask others for help.  Sense it.  Avoid it.  Ask for Help.

RESILIENCE – bounce back when they fall

Troubled children have a much harder time bouncing back from problems.  They have extreme responses to simple disappointments like breaking a toy, or poor grades, or something as serious as the parents’ divorce.  Some even fall apart in joyous times because the emotional energy is too much!  You must be acutely aware of this–they will not get back on track by themselves.  Don’t worry that helping them will spoil them or “enable” them.  Eventually they will learn from you how you do it.

“…We are all born with an innate capacity for resilience, by which we are able to develop social competence, problem-solving skills, a critical consciousness, autonomy, and a sense of purpose.”

     “Several research studies followed individuals over the course of a lifespan and consistently documented that between half and two-thirds of children growing up in families with mentally ill, alcoholic, abusive, or criminally involved parents, or in poverty-stricken or war-torn communities, do overcome the odds and turn a life trajectory of risk into one that manifests “resilience,” the term used to describe a set of qualities that foster a process of successful adaptation and transformation despite risk and adversity…”   http://www.athealth.com

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Filed under bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, mental illness, parenting, psychiatry, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia

Are you trying to reason with an irrational child?

Are you trying to reason with an irrational child?
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I regularly talk with parents with children with a brain disorder and a history of serious behavior problems.  Sometimes I meet a parent who is truly at the end of their rope and has to talk to someone.  The parent is exasperated by their child’s relentless acting out, and utterly exhausted by trying to contain their behaviors.

They plead for answers: “Why does he keep doing this?, or, ” Why doesn’t she stop after I’ve explained things over and over.”  Then they answer their own questions:  “It’s because he always wants his way,” or, “She’s doing this to get back at me.”

The parent then lists all the ways they’ve tried reasoning with their child, and/or disciplining with consequences.  As they tell their story, they continue to ask questions and provide answers, going around and around and around:  “He does this just to make me mad;”  “She manipulates the situation because she wants more (something) and I won’t give it to her.”  What’s interesting to me is that these children can be quite young (4 or 5), too young to expect reasoning in the first place, or they can be young adults (early 20′s) who have a long track record of doing things that don’t make sense.

If saying something a 1000 times hasn’t worked, why would 1001 times?

A lot of parents’ stress and frustration can quickly vanish the moment they realize and accept that their child is not ready to consistently reason nor consistently control their behaviors.  They are irrational, but it’s not their fault or the parent’s fault. Irrationality is the hallmark of brain-based problems, and chronically challenging behaviors are the evidence.  If you feel you have run into brick walls over and over again, and your child is not learning what you’re teaching, do both of yourselves a favor and stop trying the same things that still don’t work.  Stop assuming that if you say something a thousand times they’ll finally get it, and stop the paranoid assumptions that your child or teen has some evil plan to get back at you.

When you find yourself trying to reason with the unreasoning, step back and calm yourself, and ask what your child needs in the moment.  Then change your whole approach.  Try different ways of communicating, such as softening your tone of voice.  Pay attention to whether they respond best to words or images, and use what works most naturally for them.  Try using touch to communicate, or withdrawing touch if that’s threatening to them.  Post polite signs in the house as reminders for things they need remember every day.  Show your child or teen how to do something instead of telling them how.  Avoid explaining how their behavior will hurt them in the future.  Children and teens often cannot track how pushing one domino leads to all the dominos falling.

If you’ve nagged and harped and chided your child, forgive yourself.  It’s normal.  You are still a good parent who wants the best for your son or daughter.  Over the many years I’ve facilitated parent support groups, I’ve heard so many regret how they’ve treated their child once they begin to understand that it won’t work.  You are not alone.  Raising a child like yours is tough, but you’ll move on and figure things out.  Keep trying.

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Filed under defiant children, irrational children, parenting, teenagers

Mental illness more deadly than cancer for teens, young adults

Mental illness more deadly than cancer for teens, young adults
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Why isn’t everyone more upset?  A disease is killing our children and it’s worse than cancer and leukemia.  Why is pychiatric research 30-40 years behind cancer, as well as the development of pharmaceuticals and other treatment modalities?

We don’t get casseroles when our child is hospitalized for a mental health crisis

Out of curiosity, I did some research on child mortality rates from various causes, because I wanted to know how death from mental illnesses compared with other fatal illnesses of childhood and adolescence. The results were astonishing, unexpected, and disturbing.

Childhood Illness Age Range Annual Deaths per 100,000 Children
Cancers, leukemia: 5-14 yrs 2.6
Cancers, leukemia: 15-19 yrs 3.6
Childhood diabetes: Avg. 15 yrs 2.2
Anorexia: 15 – 24 years 6
Suicide ** 10 – 14 years 1.6
Suicide ** 15 – 19 years 9.5
Suicide ** 20 – 24 years 13.6

(The chart columns are in the order listed in the box, somehow I couldn’t get the right grays!)

* The starting point for the data on the medical illnesses was the website for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdcp.gov  in Atlanta; the starting point for the mental illnesses was the website for the National Institute for Mental Health, www.nimh.gov.

** The suicide data was from those with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychotic disorders-unspecified.  (Suicide from other mental health causes, such as borderline personality disorder and co-morbid substance abuse, is also prevalent but I could not find data for young adults.)

This screams out for a changes in attitude, policy, and investment in children’s mental health treatment!  I had no idea that death rates from mental illness were 3 to 4 times higher than the feared cancers and leukemias.  It is imperative that young people with mental health issues receive aggressive and sensitive treatment as would be expected and demanded of medical doctors treating cancer.

The data was difficult to find, requiring searches in many different medical journals and numerous articles, as nothing like it was compiled in one place.  I chose to use the cancer, leukemia, and diabetes data because deaths from all other causes were insignificant by comparison.  The death rates for cancer and leukemia are averages for the different forms of each, and in the journals they were presented together.

I welcome additions or corrections of this data from any other sources, and encourage readers to investigate this for themselves.

 

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Filed under bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, mental illness, mental illness, parenting, psychiatry, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, suicide, teenagers