Making parenting mistakes since 2008

Category — beyond consequences

How it looks now

It’s been just over three years since I became a parent, since I began loving two wonderful kids who really needed a family who was never going to give up on them.

There have been days when I want give up, yesterday was one of them.

My kids have stopped raging, they have stopped using bodily fluids as weapons of destruction, they have begun to learn to burst into tears when there emotions begin to overwhelm rather than beat the crap out of the closest person. It is progress but there are still days when the crazy lying, the sneaking and pushing me away dances on my last nerve. Yes even though things are better old habits and protective behaviours die hard.

Some of my kids choices are old habits but others are behaviours that are meant to protect them, behaviours that kept them alive when adults were not keeping them safe. For a long time my children were taught that adults would not meet their needs, they learned to fend for themselves and protect themselves at all costs, lying, stealing and sneaking were ways to be fed and to stay safe. Not investing in relationships with adults was a way to protect their hearts from the pain of the loss that they were certain would come if they began to care.

On one level my kids know they can trust me, but when they are  faced with a situation in which they feel threatened they often react in a way that will keep them safe no matter what. I would be lying if I told you that it does not make me crazy. I would by lying if I told you that I took it in stride every time that it happens and reacted to the behaviours in a calm and understanding manner.

The lying, stealing, sneaking and rejection makes me crazy in the moments when it occurs and sometimes I am able to take it in stride and talk the offending kid through the moment. Other times I react like many frustrated parents would and yell. The thing is, when I react like that we don’t get anywhere because my yelling just triggers my kids and then we get caught in a circle where we argue with one another. It is really hard to be the adult in those moments, it is so hard to step back and be calm, to take a deep breath and talk through the moment without creating more drama.

Sometimes it helps to remember that these behaviours are way better than the behaviours I dealt with when I first began parenting. These behaviours pale in comparison to the places my kids used to go and if I can remember that in the moments when I need to I can be a better parent. I can be calmer and more therapeutic and that means that with time these behaviours will lessen just aa the other have and that will be a good really good thing.

I am going to put on my patient pants before I pick my boys up from school, hope they help.

October 5, 2011   7 Comments

35

It was 35

It could of been 60 or 80 or 249 but it was only 35

35 what?

Minutes

What was 35 minutes?

The tantrum that Calvin had last night because while he was at a birthday party I had the audacity to take his little brother out for a spontaneous play date with their little brother E and his Mom. We went bowling, it was fun and of course Fudge had to tell Calvin all about it. Calvin was jealous, sad and angry.

Of course he could not tell me that he was feeling that way, he needed to be mad about something else instead. He started to fight with me, I knew what the reason was but I let him get all upset first and once had stopped hollering at me we talked through all his big feelings. In the mean time the rest of us went on with our evening routine because although Calvin was mad he was not raging or trying to hurt anyone and thus could be left to be angry and upset by himself.

Since no one goes to bed angry in this house he had to work it out and he did. He apologized, received some comforting hugs while he had a good cry about missing out on something and learned that sometimes having friends means you miss out on family things, it’s a hard lesson to learn.

 

Please consider buying a raffle ticket to support Adoption in Ontario, I am giving away some great stuff, tickets are only 5.00

 

September 11, 2011   3 Comments

Monday Moments – Healing Happens.

  • I have been reading a number of blog lately where parents talk about the lack of healing that is going on for their children with attachment issues as a result of the abuse they suffered as younger children. I need to say that I think EVERY child can heal and grow into a “regular” kid but it is a long road and you can not parent these children like you would neurotypical children.
  • You need find your patient pants because you are going to need them.
  • You need to be creative and try new things. You need to look at things from your child’s perspective and acknowledge just how scared they must be by all the things that have happened to them in their short lives. Living in a constant state of fear is really hard and that may be all they have ever known.
  • When we adopted the boys I thought this would be hard at first, but you know just for a few months and then be just like parenting any other kid. I was wrong. It is still not like parenting regular kids, there are glimmers of hope that it will be more like that one day but we are still not there.
  • I regret a lot of the things that I did when the boys first moved in. I made a LOT of mistakes but I learned as I went and I am not the same parent that I was then. I am proud of how hard we have all worked to make this family work.
  • You must change your parenting paradigm when you have children with attachment issues (AI) . For example when you ask your AI child to do something that would be developmentally appropriate for them and then just expect that they will do. They might comply, they might not and how you deal with their behaviour matters a great deal, it might seem like a little thing but it is not just a little thing.  With a neurotypical (NT) child you might reprimand them or provide a consequence when they do not comply, with child with AI you need to be a little more creative because there is a lot of emotion and feeling by the choice that they are making. They are trying to tell you something when they do something wrong or pretend that they can not do something that you know they can do. Your reaction matters.
  • You need to work through your own issues before you can help your child. Their behaviour can trigger a lot of things for us as their parents from our own past and if there is one thing that AI kids are good at it is finding your weak spot. Then they take an imaginary hot poker and keep poking it at you till they finally burn you. Then you react like you wold if someone just burned you on purpose and the child’s negative beliefs about themselves and how you feel about them are reinforced.
  • You need to look medications and realise that some medications that are given to NT kids are not effective in kids with AI and in fact can make things worse. We have made the decision not to medicate our children, that was a personal one for us. Our kids do take niacin ( to help with moods and anxiety) and melatonin ( to regulate sleep cycles) that is it and right now that is what is right for us and for our family.
  • Find a therapist, or many therapists. for you and for them cause this is going to be a long journey. You need someone who will work with you and your child together, in your own home would be ideal if possible. You need someone who is going to help this child learn to trust you and to help you build your relationship as parent and child. If the therapist wants to work alone with your kid than they are not the one for you as that is not attachment therapy.
  • Read, there are lots of amazing books out there, if you look at my tabs list there is a list of my favourites. There are also tons of great  adoptive parent bloggers who are working very hard and having a lot of success at helping there children to heal. I don’t want to play favourites, although I do have some, but there is list of them in the tabs at the top as well.
  • Do not be afraid to use humour with your AI kids, sometimes laughter is the best medicine there is. Doing something to make them laugh when they are beginning to spiral out of control can bring them back to regulated more quickly than anything else can.
  • Always follow through on what you say and never make a threat that you can follow through on. If you tell your child that they are going to go to church in their pj’s be prepared to do it when they make the choice to go that way. When you say no screen time due to behaviour x, then there is no screen time even though they will do everything they can to get you change your mind.
  • Be prepared to choose your battles because there are somethings that really don’t matter in the general scheme of things and if he wants to go to school with his shirt on backwards let him.
  • Do not tolerate physical violence. My son has hit and hurt both of us and each time he does we make sure that he knows that he is not acceptable and have him make amends. He does not do it nearly as often as he used to and he has learned that we will still love him but he will be in trouble.
  • Remember that when your child is raging they are fighting to survive, fight or flight is a primal response.  Threatening your raging child  with consequences will not help them to regulate their behaviour and you will need to find what works for you and your family but you must remain calm. With Calvin I would have to take him outside, let him be angry and then offer to hold him till he was calm again, it worked and let me tell you when it was really cold he calmed down a a lot quicker and we came inside to cuddle and talk it out.
  • Give them tons of time and space to learn how to love parents who are not going to hurt them. You need to hold them and love them and rock them. You need to find time a space to spend time with them doing things they want to do. They want to play trains get down on the floor and play trains, they prefer barbies, then barbies it is.
  • Have lots of toys and activities that are meant for toddlers and preschoolers available in your home because your kids need to do all the things that they missed out on. Do not force it, just have them available, say they are for cousins or whatever but have them in your home. Do not let anyone tell your 10 year old son that he should not be having tea party for his stuffies,  he needs to do it, he did not do it as a young child and now he is catching up.
  • Do not let parents of NT kids make you feel like you are a poor parent because you are doing things differently. You may appear more strict with your child but they need firm and consistent rules to begin to heal. Stand your ground with other people when they tell you that you are being to hard on your kids when you say no to them.
  • Keeping an AI kid within arms reach is a very effective way to help them regulate their behaviour. Using time out is often not as effective and can contribute to a child’s negative belief system. We use both here but time outs are short and in a central place in the house. If a child is sent to their room it is because they really need some space to themselves.
  • Hug them and kiss them and tell them they are wonderful as often as you can. there may be times when the last things you want to do is hug a child who just broke your favourite case on purpose but think about them not you or your broken vase and tell them they are loved even though you are really hurting.
  • Heather Forbes always says Love Never Fails and I have to say that I agree with her.
  • Hang in there. You are not alone, your child can heal, really they can.

January 24, 2011   9 Comments

Healing, really it is.

Calvin had a tantrum last night, that much was clear from my post. I was not feeling well and asked him to help me by vacuuming up the pine needles from the tree off the living room carpet. He happily agreed and then decided it was actually work and did not want to do it. After the 3rd attempt of saying he was done when he clearly was not I said fine, you go fold the laundry and I will do this. Well that was a mistake because he started by turning the vacuum off while I was using it and then disappeared (fight then flight) into his room, then he tried to run through the house and I said to stay in his room and he actually went back. I closed his bedroom door and told him I would be back. He wailed (as though someone had just killed his cat) for some time.

I went back about 10 minutes later to talk to him, he wailed and yelled at me some more. He yelled a tale of woe about kids at school and blamed them for his behaviour. I tried to talk it through with him and then I tried to calm him and when it became clear I was not getting anywhere I left again saying I would be back soon.

Repeat the above every 10 minutes for almost 2 hours. He stayed in his room the whole time although he did try some of his old tricks while there.

Then finally the switch flipped and he told what was really happened, that he had a made a choice in gym that led to him being excluded by the other kids. He could see that it was his choice that led to them excluding him. He could understand that he could of done things differently and he was accountable for his actions. As exhausted as I was, that gave me so much hope for him. The tantrum with me really was secondary in that moment because he processed his feelings, apologised for taking it out on me and me and we moved on.

And that my friends is healing and I will help him through it time and time again until he can get there on his own.

January 13, 2011   5 Comments

Help for the Adoption Journey – Adoption 101 or what no one ever told me.

A conversation was started last week by Living with RAD about the journey of adoption and how we live and survive in world that somedays overwhelms us and that many of us had no idea we had signed up for. A number of other bloggers have weighed in over the past few days. Take a minute and go read Essie, Jennie, and The Accidental Advocate who discuss the journey that we are on, then go read Corey, Tudu and Mom in the Trench who are brutally honest about just how hard doing this each and every day can be.

I wanted to weigh in as well but in a different sort of way. When I started this journey with P, two years ago I had no idea just how hard it would be. I did not know that my life would be filled with anger, rage, poop, sadness, longing, fear and developmental  and cognitive delays that could of been prevented.

I knew it would be hard but no one told me it would be this hard.

No one told me because no one I spoke to had ever adopted kids like ours. There is not worker at our local agency who has adopted older kids. There is no one in my town and none of my friends had done it either. We stumbled through as best we could for the first 6 months. We had hope that it would ger easier. It didn’t.

We got therapy for Calvin ( P and I already had are own therapists), we learned about Beyond Consequences, we started using it. We read every book we could find and then one day I found J and through J her Mom Lisa. Lisa saved me. Reading Lisa’s blog was like looking into my living room and seeing my life from the outside. I learned that I was not alone. There were other parents waging the same battles that we were each and everyday.

Bloggers became my lifeline, I started spending hours reading and learning from other parents experiences. I started to see that they might be a light some where in this darkness that was parenting these children. I shifted and changed along with my children, learning to be the kind of parent that they needed. There were no instructions, it was all trial and error and most days I am still flying by the seat of my pants. I have learned so much from other parents and from their blogs along the way. They are in my sidebar, go meeat them, they are all strong and passionate people who are doing their best to make it through each and every day.

If you are new to this parenting journey may I suggest that you get your hands on the following:

Wounded Children Healing Homes – I can not say enough good things about this book. Kari turned me on to it and then Jayne ( one of the authors) left a comment on my blog. It is the first time that I have seen a book that talks about all the things we have all been saying about Adoption this week. It goes through just as brutally hard this can be while providing hope and help for the future with your children. I think it should be required reading.
Beyond Consequences – I talk about Heather a lot here. It helps you to understand your kids, it provide amazing insight into why the behaviours exist.
Deborah Gray, Daniel Hughes, Gregory Keck, and Denise Best are all amazing authors who provide hope, insight and some light for the journey.
When you know what a theraputic parent is, go and meet Christine, watch her videos, absorb her brillance.

Know that if you are just starting out on your adoption journey, half way through or feeling like you are drowning that you are not alone. There are lots of us out here, we have lived through intense challenges with our children. We continue to have new challenges, we are learnig and growing and changing.

I will not tell you that it is getting easier because that would be a lie but I can tell you that I am better person and parent than I was two years ago when I started this journey. I find hope in the little things and if I can get these two children to adulthood with some sanity still in tact then I will of been successful.

March 31, 2010   5 Comments

Half way there.

We are half way through March Break and we are all still alive. The boys are outside playing the yard with nerf guns ( yes I let my kids play with nerf guns, there are plenty of things they are not allowed and we live in the country so shooting foam arrows at tress is okay with me) and have been all afternoon. We are going out to P’s son house for dinner tonight because he is leaving the country for 7 months and I would like the boys to have a little less energy than they currently do when we get there. Tired is sometimes a good thing and I know that once we get there the TV will go on and they will stare blankly for a few hours so running around now is a good plan.

I listened to the last of my Beyond Consequences (BC) parenting classes this afternoon and some of the things that Heather talked about as parents chatted in really resonated for me. One was remembering that the behaviour we see  in our kids is usually a fear response

BC is different from a lot of other parenting strategies ( for kids who have had trauma and have attachment issues) because the belief is that all the behaviour that we see comes form the fear that the child has deep within themselves that they are ________ ( worthless, unlovable, stupid, etc.). The solution changing the behaviours is addressing the fears and working through those emotions in a loving way.

Here is a perfect example from this morning, Calvin looked sad at breakfast I asked him what was wrong and he said that he had a bad dream last night. I asked him what it was about and he said that he dreamt that I was gone. I assured him I was not going anywhere and then Fudge baraged into the converation and it ended. A little later I assured him again quietly in his ear that I was here to stay and he shouted out ” You wear bikini underwear” I corrected his language and pulled him back to what I said. I said it again and had him repeat it, gave him a kiss and moved on.

 I knew that he had actually heard me but he was so scared that he had put his fear out there that he needed to misbehave to take away from the fact that I was addressing his fear and making it a little less powerful. I knew this and did not react to the behaviour in the way that he expected, instead I just corrected him and moved on. He has been loving, affectionate and looking for reassurance all day but he has not been angry or disregulated wghich is what would of happened if I had gotten drawn into the behaviour that he was showing me earlier. We would of had a crappy day and I can bet that he would of worked at misbehaving until he raged and got all the emotions out that way.

The second thing that really stood out for me was her take on video games. When the boys moved in they were both addicted to game boys, Fudge much more than Calvin but they both enjoyed getting lost in them whenever they could. P and I slowly weaned them off and by the time school had started they were not being played at all except for when we were in the car for more thatn 1 hour. It worked well and we started to see Fudge learning to do other things like read comics and play board games. We allowed them to play computer games on the weekends but started to notice that Calvin would disassociate when he was playing and would always have an accident. Fudge became a whining machine always asking when he could play and how long he could play for.  Eventually the computer was taken away as well.

Fudge still longs for them, he asks to play and is always on us to let him have one but he is a happier kid without them. There is less arguing, whining and disassociating. I have heard/read and strongly believe that kids who have experienced significant trauma use video games to escape from the world, it is a coping mechanism. It allows them to hide and not interact and I am not willing to let that happen, my kids need to learn to function in the world.

Heather also believes that it is an escape, a way to move into a world were they can be really successful and not have to deal with all their feelings. I could not agree more.

I am not saying that you should take your kids video games away, I am just saying this works for us.

PS – I wrote this post afternoon but saved it as a draft. I just got home from dinner out and a tough goodbye for P and the boys. 2 little boys who think that the big brother they love may never come back even though we tell them he will. Why the heck should they believe us, everyone else who leaves never comes back. Calvin raged on the way home and we had to pull the car over twice, he had a good cry on my shoulder the second time and then made it home but he is one angry and confused little guy. He is finally in bed although Fudge has a few new bruises and scratches from Calvin trying to hurt him, Fudge likes to ramp it up when he knows that Calvin is angry – not a good plan because he always gets hurt, one day he will get it.

March 18, 2010   7 Comments

Words to Remember.

Beyond Consequences Online was about Defiance last week, my the things I could talk about but a lot of them overlap with the things that I talked about last week in my post about agression. Instead of writing my own post I am going to share Heather’s quick reference page from the end of her chapter on Defiance. I have commented on some of Heather’s words in italics.

Remember that defiance:

  • Is grounded in fear – it is a fear reaction
  • It is preceded by a fear response.
  • Can move quickly to aggression if fed with more fear.
  • Happens when a child perceives a request as a threat, even the simplest of requests.
  • Is predictable in four areas for children with trauma histories: transition, school-time, bath-time, bedtime.

When discovering this behaviour recognize that your child needs you to:

  • First be aware of your own reaction to the defiance. (hard for me because I usually just want to yell)
  • Step back and give him the space to process the fear. ( sometimes this needs to be physical step, sometimes I need to actually step closer and be able to touch him to help him ground himself)
  • Verbally acknowledge the fear to him in a loving way. (this is hard for me and does not always happen)
  • Listen to the defiance and reflect upon this unconscious response.
  • Link this defiance to his past experiences. ( this works with Calvin but not Fudge)
  • Validate the trauma feeding the defiant fear-based reaction. ( we validate the fear but not the behaviour that comes from it, sometimes their defiance is doing something they know is not okay, we talk it through but they stil have to make amends)
  • Interrupt any negative repetitous conditioning
  • Understand that he cannot make logical choices in this fear state ( when I first realised this is was a lightbulb moment for me)
  • Open up communication in order to express this fear with you.
  • Teach the life lesson later when he is calm and more cogniznat ( this may even be a day later and often is around here)

– pg 82,  Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control Volume 1,  Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post.

I like B.C. because it gives me a place to start from and some important reminders in parenting traumtized children. I think that the theories are applicable in many situations and the the agression and defiance chapters are very useful in our home. But, like all parenting theories I read I take what works us and make it ours.  I don’t think that one theory fits all situations but BC is  a way of parenting and not an attempt to correct behaviours in the moment. Parenting like this helps me because my children are not going to heal in the moment, they are going to be affected by their pasts for the rest of their lives.

If you have read or are reading BC what parts resonate with you?

March 10, 2010   4 Comments

Aggression

I did not get to listen to the Beyond Consquences Online class last week because Fudge had a appointment with the allergist and given that he has 18 month waiting list we do not cancel unless Fudge is on his death bed.

I had a crazy week and so I finally listened to the recording this morning and this weeks topic is Agression ( chapter 9 in volume 1). Heather talks a great deal about the need to realise that with kids like ours the aggression they are exhibiting is due to a much deeper emotion, fear. Aggression is the outwards appearence but the feeling is deep within them and by addressing that deep fear you can often calm the agression. Fear controls and triggers my kids all the time. I see it in the lies, the agression, the defiance, they are afraid of many things but mostly they are afraid of being loved and cared for because they have been hurt so many times. Loving us means that they can and will be hurt again, they fight it all the time.

I know that some of you are not going to agree, I know some of you will think I have fallen off my rocker ( I did a long time ago)  but remembering that Calvin* is scared really helps me to stay calm when he is throwing things at me, telling me he hates me, offers to burn down the house or is hitting me. Remembering that there is frightened little boy in there who feels as though loving me is going to get him into all kinds of trouble makes dealing with his rage easier. It does not that mean that I always remember that, but it does mean that I make an effort and on the days when I stay calm he calms down sooner.

It took months of him hurting us for me to believe it and try it out enough times that I saw that it would work. Before that you name it we tried it, we tried every parenting technique out there to get him to stop raging and there were many times when I restrained him because he was hurting one of us. Restraining him worked in the sense that he did eventually calm down but hold 60 pounds of raging child is not my idea of fun and when it takes 45 minutes for him to calm down it wears you out really fast.

Calvin rages less now, when he does I talk to him the whole time, I give him permission to be angry, I talk about keeping safe and often take him outside so he can be safe and feel free to holler all he wants. I hold him when he is done yelling/throwing things and let him have a good cry. I talk him through making amends ( picking up thrown things, saying sorry if needed etc.) and then we move on with our lives. Not another word is said that day. When he is calm and regulated, (usually the next day) we talk about what happened, what triggered his agression and how we can do things differently next time.

This time last year he raged almost everyday, now we can go months between really angry raging episodes and then we might get a few in a row. I can see them coming and can often talk him through them. Remembering that he is scared really helps.

I think that Heather is right on this one, calm and understanding makes all the difference in the world at our house. What works for you at your house with raging kids?

* Fudge does not rage like Calvin, he just yells at us and gets really sassy, the root cause is the same but it is easier to contain.

March 2, 2010   4 Comments

A late B.C. post.

Last week the Beyond Consequences class was on Lying and Stealing, it was a good reminder about why my kids lie all the time about everything. There are days when Calvin would lie about the colour of the sky if he thought that it might get him some where good. Fudge has started trying it out as well except that he is really bad liar and he is almost always caught. If it is not in the moment he is caught later when he trips over the lie in attempt to get some thing else out. He can not remember that he lied earlier and then he has to come clean because it is obvious.

Heather mentions a few things in her book about why kids who have had trauma lie so much, some really stood out for me (pg 50 of volume 1)

  • Lying stems from a state of stress ( this really true for Calvin, he lies when he is stressed/scared)
  •  Your child can not be taught the moral lesson of lying while in the act of lying.
  • The lying behaviour is not directed at you personally ( this is also important for me to remember in the moment of frustration with all the lies.)

This week the lecture was on gorging and hoarding food, although this is less of an issue at our house we do have a few food issues that have to be addressed and dealt with all the time. With Calvin it is sneaking food at school and refusing to eat a variety of things. We seem to of stopped the sneaking food at school for now but I am sure it will pop up again. We struggle to get him to eat a variety of things that he doesn’t really like because he dislikes their texture. He will eat many of them now but he is painfully slow and if he can find away around it he will.

With Fudge there can never be enough food, he is always asking for more even though he has eaten a large potion. He struggles with knowing when he is full off and he struggles with believing that there is going to be more food later. It has been 4 years since he apprehended and in those 4 years he has always had enough to eat and yet he is still afraid that there will not be another meal.

We have a few strategies that have helped get them both over the eating struggles.

  • Calvin dislikes smooth things so started mixing yogurt with cereal to give it a different texture and now he eats it by itself
  • Fudge is given all that he is going to get in one portion and then he is finished. At night I will let have veggies ( usually carrots) after dinner if he is still feeling as though he starving.
  • We keep mealtimes and snack times very structured so that Fudge always knows when the next opportunity to eat is going to be.
  • We communicate with school about eating and make sure that everyone is on the same page. It does not always work though.

What works in your house for these issues? What do your kids do?

February 24, 2010   5 Comments

You know that you are theraputic parent when….

hearing the words, “I hit him because he was making me feel so angry inside” makes you do a little happy dance because he admitting he did it, he is telling the truth and talking about his feelings all at the same time!

He is still in trouble because he hit him with a hockey stick but he is making progress!

There should be a Beyond Consquences post today but I need to deal with the angry boy who just hit Fudge rather than write and since this is the first time I have been near the computer since this morning it is not going to happen, perhaps tomorrow I can catch up for both weeks.

It appears not to many of you want to join in the little contest I posted yesterday, I know that lots of you were here because I checked the stats but no one wants to play…  come on it is for a good cause and it only takes a few minutes.

February 16, 2010   No Comments