Friday, May 22, 2009

ODD, Conduct Disorder, and Expectations

Lindy's comment yesterday said this:

I mean this very kindly, You might want to rethink the no responsibility tact.Your daughter should not be exempt from all her responsibilities because she is pregnant. In a round about way you are rewarding her. Once the baby is here, her responsibilities are going to increase 100 fold. Every decision she makes can no longer be just about her. If she cannot handle the responsibilities of school and household chores,how will she be able to care for her child? This is something you need to find out before the baby gets here so good decisions can be made for the baby. Remember, her sister is watching. You do not want it to seem like having a baby makes your life easier. Parenting teens is always a tightrope walk. Parenting our teens is a tightrope walk in a hurricane. Hang in there.

I would have written a comment just like this a few years ago. Maybe even in January. In fact, I remember clearly (much to my embarrassment) my arrogant response to the Guidance Counselor at Salinda's previous high school when he cautioned us that most kids do not make it in online high school. I said something to the effect of, "Well, most kids don't have me for a mother."

And then I began the worst 5 months ever trying to force my daughter to get on the computer and do her work. I tried everything. I went from completely completely obsessed, to respecting her wishes and pretending to ignore it completely, to the point that I was losing sleep. Nothing I did made any difference.

We had one final argument about it going up to the Cities on Tuesday when I mentioned school to her again and went through, for about the 10th time since we found out she was pregnant, the whole reasons why every class you don't pass will affect you and the baby in the future, etc. etc. and maybe I should come up with some consequences to get her to do her school work and pass the most number of classes she could. I suggested something about her cell phone being turned off or some item that I could use to coerce her.

SHe looked at me, furious, but almost with a look that said, "How can you be so incredibly stupid." This is not the typical, "you're dumb, mom" look that I get every day, but one of real shock. She said, "EVERYTHING you just said, I already KNOW. I've heard it a hundred times. And I am going to do my school work WHEN I am good and ready, NOT because you or anyone else forces me to do it."

Conduct Disorder and ODD are really difficult to parent because you absolutely, regardless of what you try as a parent, can get a teenager to do something. You can consequence, threaten, get into a power struggle every single day, beat your head against the wall, and the result is going to be the same unless the teenager makes the choice to do it.

So even though my first thoughts were exactly those of Lindy when I found out that she was pregnant, I have had to take into consideration her personality. I am not going to be able to force her to do anything now because I literally have not been able to get her to do anything she doesn't want to do for the past 3 years. The harder I push, the more determined she is to push back. This has led her into legal trouble and a myriad of situations that I have never even blogged about.

As far as the other children are concerned, I began in the same spot last week as well. WE are NOT setting this up so that the other kids see that it is a reward to get pregnant. Well, I have since noticed a few things.

The last week has been a huge wake up call to all my teenagers. All the things they learned about in health class are happening before their eyes. Their brother is in jail because he had sex and their sister is pregnant because she did. And all the sudden those choices are having huge repurcussions.

All of our kids know that we spent years warning all of them not to go down this road and why they shouldn't. Now they are witnessing it first hand. So my guess is that listening to Salinda vomit in the bathroom in the morning or hearing about how John is sobbing in jail probably isn't going to make them say "Wow, I wish I could be like them."

Secondly, I am going to explain to the other children very carefully why I am making the choices I have. Last night Sadie and I talked for about 45 minutes. We talked about Salinda's personality and how she has never been able to be forced to do anything. We talked about the next generation having all of us -- something that her generation did not have. And we talked about focusing on the baby because all of us know we can't MAKE Salinda make good choices. And she gets it.

The interesting piece of all of this is that when the responsibilities have been forced upon her -- someone (a tiny baby the size of a nail head this week according to the book) -- is the motivation, not me. And for some reason, that someone is doing a much better job than I ever have. Here are some ways that has happened:

1) I had last weeks appointment set up because I was worried Salinda had an eating disorder. She was missing something in her diet causing her to bruise easily and I was getting concerned. Since Monday when we went to the doctor she has taken it upon herself to take her vitamins and eat at least three meals a day. She has forced herself to eat something when she doesn't feel well and she has even cooked herself things that taste good -- something she's been too lazy to do.

2) Yesterday morning I came home to find Salinda at the computer, focusing on school work. I have not mentioned it to her since Tuesday because she told me she did NOT want me to say another word. I agree and I have kept my promise.

3) She has been very motivated all week to work around here for money. Yesterday, especially, she had a great day - getting more accomplished than she has in months.

4) She has been more tender hearted toward her siblings. Last night Wilson earned the right to do Salinda's dishes, possibly through miscommunication. I'm worried that his cute little self is really going overboard on the innocent "I didn't KNOW" line of defense so I am coming down pretty hard on him sometimes. I explained to Salinda that she didn't have to help Wilson because he hadn't gotten his dishes done before dinner (the rule is that if you don't get your dishes done before the meal where it's the next person's turn, you do theirs too) that he had to do hers as well. I told her to leave them until he got home from practice, but reminded her that she could help if she wanted to. She got busy and got all of them done. In fact, she did a better job on her dishes than she has done in the last four months when she didn't even have to do them.

5) She did her chore without being asked this week after refusing to do it after being reminded at least 75% of the time for the last 2 years. (Chores here = allowance, so I don't make them huge battles. If they want to go without the cash, I can find someone else who will do the chore for extra cash.)

So the issue really isn't whether or not my daughter is responsible. She proved yesterday that she is very capable of doing all the things she needs to do and more. She lived yesterday proving that she is able to do what is necessary.

The difference in the scenario is that now the motivation is internal. And it is going to have to remain there. If I slip up and begin to remind her and nag her about things she already knows, she is going to start resisting again and we're back to the same old battles.

By the way, this response to Lindy's comment really isn't about Lindy at all. It's about me having a 180 degree turn in my attitude and philosophy and having to defend myself to me.

But so far the "no stress, optimism, not my job to make her be responsible" philosophy has had big pay offs...


Yondalla said...

I'm totally with you. boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

She has to learn responsibility and she won't learn it if you do the job for her. Like learning to walk there isn't much you can do (I believe) past staying out of her way.

Kathleenb said...

From what you've blogged, I don't think you're taking away her responsibilities. In fact, I think you are putting those responsibilities squarely back where they belong - on her shoulder. When you try to force her to do things, you are taking on the responsibility that should be hers, and it creates a lot of stress for both of you.

Letting go will benefit both of you in the stress department and probably improve your relationship. Maybe she'll pony up to more of her responsibilities, maybe not - but is it really likely that she will accomplish much LESS if you let go?

I think you're doing the right thing.

Barb in No. WI said...

I can definitly see Lindy's point, along with your explanation. If you didn't have the alphabet soup of issues, I probably would have given a similar comment.

Although pregnancy wasn't involved at the time, I had to do something similar with my daughter. Of course it didn't work 100%, and I had be willing to change my thoughts on some things a little bit, but overall, it helped a LOT.

Bottom line is to continue to support your daughter in a way that offers her AND the grandchild a decent chance.

Patty said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am a new reader to your blog, finding it on a search for ways to help my daughter. Diagnosed with ODD and aspbergers, I have had constant struggles since she became a part of our family at 5 months. I really needed to hear the words and the feelings in your blog. It always feels like we are in an all consuming war. I began to wonder if it was me, and now I am beginning to see that I need to let it be about her.