Behavioral Issues? I’ll Take One for Now, Please

My boys are all …fun in their own ways. Torn between delusion and reality; I often decide that, despite reassurances of similar children, other families do not enjoy quite the smattering of personality challenges I do in raising mine.

Only my second son has been officially diagnosed with anything. That was a result of his school planner in first grade. The notes from his teacher began innocently enough: Had some difficulty when he was asked to sit and do his work, for example. By December, however, each week had a major incident or even two. Threw a chair was one. Tried to bite another student was another.

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That was four years ago, so some of the specifics are still repressed memories for me.

Threatened litigation by another parent was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Through an answer to a prayer, a cancellation made it so I was immediately seen by a new pediatrician. The doctor gave me the education and (eventually) the medication we needed. He has been wonderful.

I am not a fan of diagnosing misbehaving children nor of doping them up. My husband is even less so, which is still a sore issue regarding Boy #2. For the sake of keeping this shorter than a textbook, I have our son where he is with what he is taking because it works and he needs it. He takes a pill known as Straterra, and is now on a fairly low dose.

Every year we have a reevaluation with the doctor to discuss whether the medication is affecting anything. It is, in about a 95% positive way. Every summer we try not taking the pill, at my son’s request. Our record is three weeks.

At that point, I am reduced to constant babysitting. Every social interaction needs moderation and ends in meltdown.

Me: Now, remember: we can’t sit on your brother’s head.

Him: You never tell him not to sit on me!

I can tell he’s approaching puberty because he used to tear up and run screaming from the room. Now he clams up and gives me short little answers that prove he’s withdrawing and repressing on his own. *Sigh*

On more humorous notes, the lucid parts of his personality are more apparent during sober times. So is his forgetfulness. All day he asks me where he left his book or his glasses or his brain -okay, not literally his brain. Even on medication I tell him he’ll need a personal assistant as an adult to remind him to put on pants.

Even on medication he is himself and still has the same challenges. What makes medical intervention and therapy crucial is The Point of Meltdown. As a young child, entering meltdown meant I had to physically carry him to a re-direction point (often outside) until he burned through his feelings. It meant his telling me he did not hit a person whom I saw him hit, and getting fixated on how I hated him for forcing him to apologize.

I wrote a glib snippet last week about people wanting a silver bullet or a cure-all for behavioral issues. Wouldn’t that be nice; right?

The truth is that there is a cure-all, and it is love.

The Number One thing I’ve had to learn as my son’s mother is to show him I love him in an over-the-top, but genuine fashion. When he is being a mean jerk, telling me that he does wish he’d mortally wound his older brother, that’s the time I need to say, “I love you so much.” When he is hiding under the table and yelling about whatever ticked him off and that I never care, that’s when I start tickling his back and talking about how much he means to me.

Tickling his back and neck are his weakness, besides the love. Maybe your son or daughter has an Achilles’ Heel like that, too.

Life is not easy with a difficult child or four, but it is what it is. I’ve tried the Hide and Resent It approach; it’s not very effective. With patience, love, and lots of chocolate, taking it one day at a time is the best way to go.

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Silver Bullet

My second son has behavioral issues. Sometimes teachers or other adults ask me ‘what works’ with him.

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Don’t you think, if I knew, I’d be spraying that magic solution all over the place?!

What IS That?!

There are a few phrases a parent says that can only mean a bad thing.

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Mine include: “Don’t worry; it couldn’t get any worse,” “I’m sure it’s washable,” and “What is that?”

The Difficult Child

According to commiserating folk, every child is difficult.

If I’m going off their actual, real-life, sighing, eye-rolling, judgy-face reactions, however, my child is the only difficult one. Those reactions, and what their kids are doing.

At a park full of happy faces, sand castle builds, a brother pushing a sister on a swing, and a group of giggling girls with Barbie dolls; my son is the one flinging sand or chasing his brother with murder in his eyes.

Mine’s the one hiding on the sidelines at the first grade school performance, while his peers sing the song they are supposed to. Later on, he’s the one who slaps a cute girl who tries to get him to come out.

The kid in a store who won’t stop screaming? Mine.

The ones brawling in the hallway after a religious lesson on love in the home? Also mine. All of them.

How about that one rogue boy who, when Nature called, couldn’t be bothered to find his parent or a toilet? He was my child, and was at a public splash pad when he dropped his swim pants.

Others get calls home from school about awards or examples of leadership. When I see the school’s number on my phone, I have a near-panic attack. And, rightly so! Before addressing my second son’s behavioral issues in first grade, he was sent to the office at least once a week.

“All kids are like that,” other parents tell me. Their child sits nearby, calmly playing with a toy and smiling and saying, “Please,” and “Thank you.”

“I’m not so sure they are,” I reply, with a bit of a nervous tic to one eye. Looking over at my offspring, I have to immediately rise and pull one out of the mouth of the other, while the little brat yells, “I hate you, Mommy! You love him more!”

I’ve tried to accept what I have, and (despite what they yell) I love who I have, but I’ve decided to accept a more obvious truth:

I actually have difficult children.

 

Photo credit: Zebras, Tigers

Dear Son / Dear Mom

Dear Son,

I try to love you, but you make it difficult. I see love as soft affection, listening considerately to my advice, and respecting my intelligence.

I get calls and e-mails home from school about concerns parents have for their children who play with you. When I ask you about what happened; you respond with complete ignorance, offended honor, or adamant disagreement.

Your instructors ask me what I recommend for working with you. If I knew, don’t you think I’d tell? Sometimes I ask you. You laugh and say, “I don’t know!”

I will keep trying, because you are my son. I hope that you will grow out of many of these things so that you will be successful in life and have the many friends you love to play with.

Love,
Mom

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Dear Mom,

I try to love you, but you push me away. I like to hug you really tight so you can see how strong I am and how much I love you! I see love as giving me what makes me happy, surprising me with fun games or treats or fun places to go, and agreeing with me when it’s my brothers’ fault!

Sometimes the teachers don’t listen to me. I try to tell them that I accidentally bumped his head or meant to just throw snow at his coat and not down inside it. That one time, it was really my friend who pushed her down, but she thought it was me. I usually don’t remember, because we’re having fun.

My teachers move my peg down when we’re still talking and they get to “1” counting down. Can I make a chart for home with pegs? Then you can move my peg up or down and I can have computer time.

When I grow up, I want to be a computer programmer like Dad and work with him and eat lunch with him. I will buy a house on this street so I can visit you.

I love you Mom,
Charlie

 

Originally posted at chelseaannowens.com.