Friday, July 29, 2011

A Gentle (or Not So Gentle) Reminder

Yesterday morning Mike called. I'm not going to give you lots of details about the conversation, but let's just say he was angry and whenever he is angry he goes to the door alarm and the bucket story.

Many years ago we had two boys who were -- for different reasons -- not safe to leave their rooms. We read on adoption boards and in books about RAD, about putting door alarms on their rooms. Because one of them peed several times in the night, we had a bucket that he could pee in if he needed to and we would empty it in the morning.

This was back in the day when we were somehow convinced that we could control our kids behavior. When parents get in that power struggle everything is ugly. Parents take more and more away, kids defy more and more, and things get really really tense.

Mike recalls this that he lived like this for his entire childhood -- locked in his room with a bucket to pee in. In reality, we tried it for about a month and realized it doesn't work, but with his mind working the way it does it is where he gets stuck. Obviously, we haven't tried it again and we wouldn't do it again. It wasn't the way he made it sound, but it probably wasn't a good choice either.

For the rest of our lives he will bring this up -- as a definition of his childhood. I didn't figure out until a few years after this attempt to be in control (recommended by several RAD writers 8-10 years ago) that it was not the right way to be raising my kids. I needed to focus on the relationship instead of continuing to try and outsmart my kids to prove that I could force them to comply with what I had to say. I'm sure I didn't really understand what I needed to do then, and I'm not sure I do now, but right now I recommend time ins instead of time outs and I recognize that when I sent kids with FASD to their rooms, by the time they got there they had no idea why they were there.

Mike claims that he spent his childhood locked in his bedroom with nothing but a bucket to pee in. He says he spent his adolescence, from 13-18, locked in residential facilities (when it reality it was 20-24 of those months total).

I guess my reminder to you is this: Ask yourself when you are parenting your kids if ten years from now you want to be reminded of what you are doing today. Look at it from the memory picture of a child -- when they look back -- if they only remember bad things -- what are they going to remember?

There were a zillion other ways that Mike spent his childhood. We went to water parks and miniature golfing. They rode golf carts and he did a lot of skateboarding. We had many great meals out, visited friends, and made happy memories that the other kids have no trouble recalling as part of their childhood.

But the next time you come down really hard on your kid -- you may want to ask yourself if you want that defining their childhood. And then love the heck out of that kid. I confess openly that Mike spent a great deal more time in Bart's lap than he did mine because I could not make myself connect very well with a child who was being so rude and defiant to me all the time. And that was my bad.

I'm not saying that a child who has many great memories and spends time on your lap is going to necessarily turn out any differently than a child who is "locked up for their entire childhood." But my guess is that you will turn out differently after choosing the lease controlling option of the two.

I guess I'm just trying to do what most people do -- I'm trying to stop you from having the feelings I did yesterday when he brought up the door alarm. I'm not saying that you shouldn't do that thing in particular or even really trying to get you to do anything other than think twice. I don't want you to have a conversation like I did yesterday. It wasn't fun.


Lee said...

I know how you feel. Our eldest is on the autistic spectrum and had some really tough anger issues going into puberty. We were advised to have him take a walk when he was angry, or to go outside and bang nails into a board. When we tried to employ those tactics he would *always* stop, re-enter the house and continue to escalate. Once my wife locked the door so that he could not come in. To this day, he talks about "always being locked out of the house."

Sheri said...

This is so Dustin. I shared this on my blog because I need to remember this! Thank you!

Denise said...

I really appreciate hearing this sort of advice from someone who's farther along this road than we are. We're just starting out with this and it's hard to stay on top of what's important when we're in the midst of all sorts of new and unique (to us) behaviors. Thank you!

Lisa said...

Same here. We have a few door alarms and we have always emphasized that they are for safety issues and not a punishment. I am sure my son will view his childhood with the resentment that his very skewed sense of reality shows him even now. He has said that we locked him in his room - no locks, just an alarm to let us know when he came in or out of the room - same thing to him and there is no telling him otherwise. Why in the world does one kid remember 100 good things about their childhood and another one, growing up right alongside chooses to focus on one single episode? I want my kids to have good memories, but I don't want them to rewrite history.

Becky said...

I so agree!

Some years ago I was a foster parent for a child that had Duchennes MD and RAD (although I did not know anything about RAD at the time and the therapist withheld that info until we disrupted 3 years later.) His therapist suggested that I use cold showers to clean up purposeful encopresis. I did it twice and told the therapist never again. That therapist did not have to stand there and see this poor child, emaciated, shivering with lips turning blue...

Since that time, I have learned to trust my own gut instinct and to not always follow a professionals recommendation without thought.

Fifteen years later and the memory of those showers still brings tears to my eyes.

Still Celebrating Momma said...

I'm only 3 years into what I expect to be a very long journey. We have the bedroom door chimes and will probably need locks before long. Although we got some history when we adopted him at 5 yrs old, we didn't know it would look like this so soon.

tashapork said...

Life can be pleasant and fun 99% of the time, but a person who is focused on the negative will obsess over that one percent. These kids often focus on the negative. They will find something to be upset about. If you were nice all the time, they would be mad because that bothered them and caused their life to be horrible. It's hard, but best to take what they say and let it in one ear and out the other because its their moods.