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This is the final article (part 12) of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9 , part 10 , and part 11– I urge you to do so if you are searching for help on this subject. If you’ve read along with me already, I want to welcome you into the 1 year mark of our journey and Knight’s recovery.
The last article I wrote about Oppositional Defiance Disorder brought us up to the end of week 34 (7 months) after working with Knight on his O.D.D issues. I would like to skip ahead to the 1 year mark and share with you the things that we tried that were successful and the things that failed.
Things Not To Do (Ineffective):
- Reasoning: A child with oppositional traits will not deal well with reasoning. Although this has become a very popular parenting tool for the latest generation, this does not work well with a child with defiance issues. If a child has produced unacceptable behaviors and actions, reasoning with them to stop those actions and behaviors can back-fire. They certainly back-fired on us. Even when you are exhausted and totally worn out, you can’t give in to the idea of reasoning. (Example: “Why are you doing this? Would you please just not argue anymore if you get to go to your friend’s house? I can’t take it anymore!” Bad idea. The child will sense vulnerability and will go in for the win. I’d rather not provide examples of this. Instead, I’d prefer to advise against falling into this common trap. I fell into it once…and only once!)
- Relinquishing decision-making to the child: Again, this is easy to fall into if you are very tired or physically worn down. When a parent or authority figure gives the decision-making over to the child, at first the child is happy and excited. Shortly thereafter, they become bewildered and insecure. A large part of their desire to be oppositional and defiant is due to a personal feeling of abandonment in their minds. Whether this be true (and often times is not), it is how most of these children feel. This feeling accompanies feelings of insecurities, low self-worth or value, and a feeling of being invisible in the world. In their minds, if they are making decisions, who loves them enough to make their decisions for them? (Example: After a particularly difficult event, the child could ask, “Do you want me to just leave for a while so I’m not bothering you?” Giving decision-making to the child, parent may answer, “Would you like to spend the night with a friend or stay home tonight? It’s your decision.”)
- Waffling: Setting your foot down on a negative behavior is one thing, but then going back on the punishing result is another. This is waffling indecisiveness. If you are serious about your goal to change these behaviors, there is no room for waffling – even when you feel like you’re punishing yourself by the decision you made during the moment of heat. (Example: Very upset about some undesirable behavior at school, I “ground” Knight for 1 week. This made travel difficult, cut off the TV for me, I had to monitor him while he mowed the lawn and did other work, and I had to hear him wonder aimlessly through the house making random noises to entertain himself. I was tempted to lift his grounding so I could maintain sanity…but I knew that would be my undoing, so I did not.)
- Never reward a child with money: Where the thought of paying our children to be good came from… I will never know! It doesn’t work and Thank God that thought only lasted about 15 minutes! I think it was out of desperation maybe, but anyway, it did not work.
Things To Do (Effective):
- Maintain consistency at all times: If the result of good behavior is a specific reward, be prepared to give that reward often during the good behavior. The same is true for the negative behavior.
- Stand your ground: If you’ve decided that a particular behavior will not be tolerated, don’t allow minor events of that behavior to slip past you in the presence of others. No one likes to correct their children in front of others. We are afraid we will be judged as a failing parent or people will see that things are not a bed of roses in our homes. Regardless of this, all non-tolerable behavior must be stopped at the moment it occurs. It should be brought to the attention of the child and immediately remind the child what the recourse is for that negative event or behavior. (Example: Cursing was an issue for a bit and Knight thought he could get away with it in front of other people. He tested me. His correction was the same however. I would quickly say, “That is inappropriate.” and remind him what the consequences were. “You just lost your phone for 2 days when we get home.”
- Be firm not only in correction, but in love also: The same as you need to catch the negative behaviors immediately, the same is true for catching the positive behaviors also. It’s very important in the O.D.D. child’s mind to hear when they’ve done something good. This doesn’t mean constant praise and pats on the back though. A verbal acknowledgement like, “I’m so happy today. You haven’t had an outburst. You’re doing so well. I love you.” Or “I’m proud of you this week. You’re doing great!” “I am looking forward to your progress next week! You really impressed me this week!” Hearing things like this go a long way in changing defiant behavior. The otherwise invisible child begins to realize that he is not actually invisible at all.
- Create and maintain an open dialog: If a child feels like everything they tell you will get you all riled up, they will stop telling you things. Maintaining a reliable open dialog will allow the child to feel as though they can safely share things with you without judgment. If you’ve maintained consistency, they will already know what type of correction you may use, but they will be more willing to share with you what is going on in their universe. Children like to share how they feel and what is going on in their daily lives. If they are not sharing with you, they will share with someone else.
- Evaluate your home’s structure: Do you really have routines? Are those routines healthy? Do most of your family habits emphasis togetherness or individuality? A unique balance of both contribute to a successful family life. Sometimes it helps to have someone from the outside of the family to take a peek at your home life in order to get an honest observatory opinion if you need help evaluating.
- Don’t let the small stuff go: By allowing the lesser bad behaviors to be overlooked, the defiance in a child with O.D.D will grow into a large outburst. Handle each issue as it arises (while at the same time, picking your battles wisely).
- Don’t overwhelm: In the beginning, it’s easy to want all negative behaviors corrected at the same time, but this can overwhelm the child and cause further defiance. Pick your battles wisely. As you triumph over each hurdle, celebrate and then move on to the next as you continue to re-enforce the previous.
Knight now bears no resemblance to the child he use to be. I am proud of him. The behavior modification plan we put it in place – worked! 🙂 I wish you all luck if you are tackling this problem with your child too. It’s an ongoing process. May God give us continued strength!
This article is part 11 of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, and part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9 , part 10 – I urge you to do so if you are searching for help on this subject. If you’ve read along with me already, I want to welcome you into the next weeks of our journey and Knight’s recovery.
In the last article I shared Knight’s journey up to week 26. He was not doing the best with authority figures (especially in school) but I didn’t mention his grades yet. Before he came to live with us, he was a low C to high F student. He had failed many of his classes in the other schools he’d attended. Now, he was doing much better. The average grades he was bringing in were high B’s. Occasionally his grades would slip to low C’s or high D’s if he got lazy about turning in his work. We would issue reminders about his grades, offered him weekly updates on his progress and coax him into catching-up. By the end of his courses though, he would finish with a low A or high B. He really was doing better in this new environment.
Jumping forward to weeks 28 & 29, Knight completed 2 weeks without getting into trouble at school. I was extremely happy for him and attempted to shower him in praise. He was continuing his attempt to join the football team, but we didn’t have his paperwork complete at that point. He was pretty much benched to the side lines. His coach carried continued discipline into each practice and game if he’d been disciplined at school. Football was good for him and in a few more weeks, he would be cleared to officially join the team.
Knight was still hanging out with his friends and going to church regularly. He had attended Church camps, outings, retreats, and other special events (which were all incredibly expensive). He would often speak about the Lord after these events and about how God was touching his heart. His friends were also encouraging him to stop cursing and doing the vulgar things which he had grown accustomed to in his previous life. Let’s face it, our kids will act one way around us and then another way around their friends. It happens. It’s just the way teenagers are. I was not blind to this. I was happy however that the friends he had picked were good enough to also issue him gentle reminders when he got out of hand in these areas.
Skipping ahead to week 32, this was the last week of the first semester for him in his new school. He had made it 4 weeks without acting out at school, but continued to tell me everyday that 2 of his teachers “hated him” and “had it out for him”. He was doing well in those classes though. On the last day of school, we all received a surprise visit from his mother. She drove in from out-of-state and said she wanted to take him for the Christmas break. He wasn’t ready to go just yet. She was traveling to another state also to pick up her daughter and agreed to swing by in a few days and pick him up on her way back through.
Knight left with her 2 days later, early in week 33. We allowed him to open some of his Christmas presents early since he would not be with us until after the New Year. We were all sad to see him go. Both of my boys kind of moped around while he was gone. They really did miss him. It was a realization for me that they truly had accepted him as part of our family now. Maybe they had done so much earlier than I realized? I don’t know. I couldn’t tell through all the arguments, disagreements, complaints from one boy to the next about each other. I was seeing obvious evidence of this now though.
Knight called often while he was away. He would give me an update on how he was doing (if he was being good to his mother and sister), and would tell me if he successfully avoided an outburst of anger. He also called to say that he missed us. By the end of the first week, he called to ask when he could come “home”. I reassured him he was not being punished and that his mother would be bringing him back soon – because school would start back soon. He said he wanted to be home by New Year’s Day so he could celebrate with us. I cried after our conversation. I’m not sure why I cried though. Maybe because I missed him too?
On the last day in week 34, Knight returned home. It was New Year’s Eve! He would get to be with us for New Year’s Day after all 🙂 A few days after Knight came home, Knight’s father received a call from Knight’s grandmother. Knight stayed at her house while he spent time with his mother and family. She remarked about the significant change in Knight. Actually, she was amazed that he was not the same boy at all! She said, “I’m not sure what you are doing with him, but keep it up. He was the most respectful child! He was a pleasure to have and he’s practically unrecognizable. You’re doing a good job. I’m proud of that boy!”
Even though this was not told to me, I found encouragement in her words. We were doing something right if others could identify a significant difference in him. I was happy for Knight and especially happy to have our family all back together again. 🙂
This article is part 10 of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, and part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7 , part 8 , and part 9 – I urge you to do so if you are searching for help on this subject. If you’ve read along with me already, I want to welcome you into the next weeks of our journey and Knight’s recovery.
As I mentioned in the previous article, Knight just started a new public school and had been warned about the zero tolerance policies related to defiance and discipline. Unfortunately, in week 22 he began to have issues. He came home complaining about some of his teachers. They were the bad guys because they fussed at him for distracting others in the classroom, talking, or being loud while the teacher attempted to teach the day’s lesson. Here’s how things went.
In week 16, Knight was continuing to make friends and had plans to spend the night over at some friend’s houses. He behaved well in other’s homes we were told.
In week 17, Knight developed interest in a church where his friends were members and begged us to go there. I had not been to this church in many years, but I knew what they believed, so we allowed him to go. He was in teenager heaven 🙂
In week 18, Knight began to share his total excitement with us and tell us how happy he was to live with us and happy about his “new” life. We continued to encourage Knight and reminded him daily (and our other boys) to complete their homework!
In week 19, I had noticed a significant difference in our overall family life and noticing the difference in each boy individually also.
In week 20, Knight was still attending church and visiting with his friends pretty regularly. Most of his behavior issues had disappeared and our only real problem was his occasional back-talk.
Ups and Downs
We experienced a slight set back in week 21 when Knight had a slight blow up. He blamed his behavior on being tired. He found himself grounded for a few days. His behavior changed and his punishment was lifted a day early.
Early in week 22 Knight called me from school and told me he was in trouble. I asked him what was going on. He told me he had been suspended for 4 days out of school. He also mentioned that, “He didn’t do anything” and that it “was not his fault, it was someone else“. Sound familiar? We were literally about to ride this same coaster again! It seemed as though only a few short weeks had passed since we had begun to work on taking ownership and responsibility for actions with him. He had done great – until this.
This left me puzzled. 😦 He seemed to do better with authority figures that he got to know personally. Life cannot be lived this way though. It would be impossible for Knight to get to know every single authority figure in his life personally.
I spoke with him about the importance of doing as the teachers ask while in their classes. We talked about respect and if he was to receive respect he had to give it first. He said everyone hated him and that all his teachers were out to get him. Everyone else was causing disturbances in class too according to him. He simply was the loudest and the one called out for it. He neglected to tell us he was the leader of the disturbances though. (This we discovered through speaking with his teachers that “hated him”.)
Knight’s father was very upset that he’d been suspended. I haven’t told you all the details of the suspension, but let’s just say that the things coming out of his mouth were directed toward a female and were totally not tolerable (again – here is that zero tolerance policy). Knight and his father were told that there could not be a next time in this offense category. A next time would take him completely out of all public schools.
Knight went back to school in week 23. Knight was warned again about the zero tolerance policies (both at home and at school). Knight said he understood. Weeks 23 & 24 seemed to be getting back on track, until week 25. Knight came home from school with an in-school suspension slip. He had made noises in class (distractions) and when called down, he back-talked the teacher. He served out his sentence at school and was grounded at home from all electronics. (I took all power cords and chargers instead of the actual devices. He got to slowly watch the batteries drain knowing he could not reconnect or charge anything.)
Week 26 produced more issues. After that first horrendous event that resulted in out of school suspension, the school had agreed to evaluate him for an IEP. Knight was placed through a series of tests. He spoke with a psychologist and so did his father. All of Knight’s teachers were interviewed and all of his previous school records were being reviewed. The 2 previous schools he attended had him in *special* classes for learning disabled children because of his inability to control his anger and outbursts. Knight was not learning challenged or disabled though. That was obvious to this new school, but not his father and mother. Outsiders looking in can see things differently because they are disconnected from emotions surrounding circumstances. Basically, Knight had been given a free ride for many school years and this school was simply not into free rides.
I asked Knight if he remembered me telling him that this school would not treat him any differently than any other student. He said he remembered. I explained to Knight that he had no choice now but to begin accepting responsibilities for his actions and needed to put self-restraint he was learning into practice at school. I don’t think he liked the idea, but knew what I was telling him was true. He spoke of how much he loved the friends he’d made here and how much he wanted to stay. I told him only he was in control of the outcome. He understood he had to change his defiant personality and learn how to be compliant at school just as he had done at home.
It was tough for him. It was in the nature that he had developed over time to be defiant of everyone and everything in every situation. Showing him examples of how he had been able to do it at home allowed him to see how it was possible to do it at school too. I asked him if he was defiant at church. He said he was not. I asked him if he defied his football coach. He said he did not. So, he’d mastered 3 settings and saw that it really was up to him to master the 4th one – school!