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Brief Visit – Visible Improvement (O.D.D)

This article is part 7 of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, and part 4 , part 5 , and part 6 – 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 few weeks of our journey and Knight’s recovery.

Week 10 & 11 were awesome weeks for us. They were awesome (challenging) because we had set-backs & problems from Knight, but we also received some much-needed encouragement. He was doing well with the re-enforced structure we had put in place and with gentle reminders, was doing better. He’d only had a few outburst of massive anger, sever aggression, and extremely argumentative behavior. Each of these had been very trying of our patience and required much love and prayer to work through. But, in the end, we seemed to be on the right track. We constantly reminded him that he was loved, was receiving a lot of attention (that he desperately thought he wanted), and we were not going to give up on him.

During week 10 or 11 (I can’t remember which), Knight had a visit from his out-of-state mother and another relative. They remarked about how he’d grown and seemed like a totally different child to them. They were not excited about him aspiring to play football in the up-coming fall, but were happy he was involving himself in activities to use his excess energy. Their visit lasted a few hours.

Hearing from someone else who knew him well before, that they could see a noticeable difference in him was a happy moment for me. I knew his father was still frustrated with him a lot of the time, but he was improving and I could see improvements daily too.

Exchanging one behavior for another

Knight’s explosive outbursts were becoming less severe and were occurring far less often. As what I understand as an outlet for his tendencies, Knight began to be defiant in passive ways. Some of his passive behaviors including:

  • Chewing on plastic and spitting the chewed up mess in the floor – When asked not to chew on the plastic, he would remove it from his mouth and throw it in a sneaky way behind furniture instead of in the trash can.
  • Spitting sunflower seeds in the floor – I can’t remember who bought them for him, but somehow Knight ended up with what appeared to be an endless supply of sun flower seeds in the shell. As a passive form of defiance, he began spitting them in the floor in every room. When asked to clean up his mess and reminded to spit them in a trash receptacle, he would just walk away and leave the shells. I made a new rule: NO MORE sun flower seeds in the house! After we moved back home, it took me 2 hours to remove all the sun flower seeds from the rental we were staying in. They were under furniture, stuck between the base boards and the walls, inside the tank of the toilet, stuck in the garbage disposal, in the kitchen drawers, and even behind the refrigerator and stove! I still have a no sun flower seeds rule in the house now!
  • Leaving his shoes & clothing in the living room (stuffed under the couch) – again, it’s a more passive way of being defiant that he was aiming at mentally. When asked about why he did these things, he would answer, “I don’t know.”

His passive defiance was more tolerable than his earlier behaviors, so I had to pick my battles wisely and not overwhelm him. This meant that I had to live with the lid always off the toothpaste, a cereal bowl with milk in the bottom of it in the sink several times a day, sunflower shells, etc. These things were really just normal teenage boys type behaviors anyway, and that is what we were striving for – normal or average teenager behaviors – not perfect!

Every single day, we were continuing to work on our main plan:

  • Maintaining open dialog
  • Pointing out annoying behaviors
  • Bringing lies to Knight’s attention (Taking Ownership of his Words & Actions)
  • Structure in his daily life
  • Consistency in discipline

…and

it was working!

Structure & O.D.D.

This article is part 6 of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, and part 4 , and part 5 – 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 few weeks of our journey and Knight’s recovery.

One of the most important parts of our plan to battle this Oppositional Defiance Disorder was giving Knight some much-needed structure without smothering him.

In week 8 & 9 Knight was showing significant improvements. His outbursts, physical altercations, lying, theft, annoying behaviors, & and destructive inclinations were becoming less with more time between them. I was proud of his progress & reminded him daily that he was doing so much better!

Knight was growing closer to his brothers. Fights & arguments between them were less frequent & all the boys were much more tolerable of each other.

The structure we’d initiated in our home was helping. Before Knight moved in, I thought we had structure, but hadn’t really given it much thought. Turns out, we weren’t as structured as I thought we were. These are the things we changed:

1. We established regular meal times. (I thought we had regular meal times before, but really we were independently eating when each of us were hungry.) Dinner time/Supper was the most recognised meal time. We were all going in different directions during the day & had separate interests/hobbies/jobs. So, for supper, we all slowed down, came together and ate together. I credit Knight’s father for this suggestion. It wasn’t difficult at first, but after about a week into it, some of us had a hard time stopping what we were doing & coming to the table. Within 3 weeks, it was an expectation for most of us & if one of us couldn’t make it home, several of us would be bummed out. Now, a year later, everyone coming together for supper is still part of our daily routine and is a therapeutic part of our joint successful family unit.

2. We invited Knight to help develop a smoother morning routine. I’ve always had a hard time waking the boys up in the mornings. Knight was a huge help to the family with that! He woke up relatively easy & we put his “annoying” to good use. I told him I needed his help waking his new brothers up & that he was welcome to annoy them to wake them up & help me get them moving. He seemed happy & welcomed helping me. It worked!! He was & is the best alarm clock ever 🙂 At first, his brothers complained, but I explained that the annoying would stop once they complied, got up, & started moving. 🙂

3. A regular summer chore schedule was established. They already had chore expectations, but it worked better this way. Each of the boys jade specific chores on designated days.

4. Rewards and treats we regular as clockwork. Privileges such as mall trips, going to the movies, and other favorite things became rewards.

5. A decent bedtime was established.

6. Shower/bath rules were established so everyone wasn’t trying to jump in there all at once & arguing.

These things should have been in place already, right? The truth is they were, but we just needed to start all over again, make sure we had communicated them clearly, and place emphasis on this restructuring. Let’s face it, every family has rules, but after a few years, rules must be re-established as a reminder. Especially during the teenage years when not all of a family may be going in the same direction, with each other, or have separated interests.

By the end of week 9, we had all seen a significant change in Knight’s behavior & reactions to others. We were still working on every key step we had enlisted in previous weeks. I was proud of Knight & still am 😉

Theft & Drugs (O.D.D.)

This article is part 5 of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, and part 4 – 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.

When O.D.D. strikes a child it seems as though their entire lives are going down the drain. Outsiders nonchalantly look on the child & their family as they whisper how pitiful it is that such a seemingly wonderful or normal child has gone so wrong.  Some will make open comments in public places, some will talk behind the child and family’s backs and smile to their faces.

The truth is simply that people on the outside looking in don’t have any idea what life is really like living with a child or teen affected by Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Whether people intend to or not, they judge the parents and certainly the children for the behavior. If you are a parent, you can’t let this get you down. If you want to change the oppositional behavior, you can’t give up, give in or let go. I know the tears you’ve shed. I know the impending doom you think you see & the failure you feel hover over you. There is hope & it’s layered in Love 🙂

When we left off in the last article, I was sharing with you our progress up to week 5.  Let’s move ahead into weeks 6 & 7 after Knight moved in with us.

Theft
Near the end of week 5, leading into week 6, odd items began to disappear. My pocket knife I kept on my hip always was suddenly missing. It was a treasured memory item for me & I had worn for many years when I started hiking. I asked everyone to help me find it. Supposedly no one had seen it. Everyone searched for it. It wasn’t until I broke down in tears that it reappeared – in plain site on the coffee table everyone had walked by for days. Coincidence?

I smoke cigarettes. I know it’s bad for my health & one day I’ll stop. Anyway, my lighter disappeared the same day the pocket knife reappeared. I asked everyone to look for it & no one could find it. Things had never disappeared before Knight came to live with us. It was an odd coincidence… 😦

By week 7 my oldest son complained about his batteries disappearing from his gaming wireless controller. My youngest son was missing some clothes. My husband’s lighter was missing. Everyone was missing socks. $20 disappeared from the change compartment in my car. The steak knives started disappearing from the kitchen! Finally, I confronted Knight about all these random item disappearances. He denied having anything to do with them.
One day we were inside a local service station getting drinks & snacks. Knight asked me to buy an energy drink for him. I said, “no”. Not happy with my answer, he decided he’d just help himself to what he wanted. He looked around & slid the small product into his pocket. I walked over to him & asked him if he’d had the pleasure of meeting any local law enforcement officers. “No”, he huffed. “Well dear, I love you enough to let you meet those 4 fine officers over there.” I said pointing to a group of local & state officers. Knight’s face turned red, “You wouldn’t!” I smiled as big as I could & told him I was serious as a heart attack. Plus, they’d already seen him do it & were just waiting for me to walk away so they could arrest him. “This is a point in your life where you make a decision Knight. Go to jail over something as stupid & petty as theft or come home with me. If you choose jail or juvenile, I will NOT come get you out. Choice is yours. When I step away, your decision should already be made.” Knight quickly took the item from his pocket & placed it back on the shelf. On the way back home we talked about that ever-so important respect he wanted from others & that theft was the lowest form of deceit. I emphasized that I have nor ever will have respect for a thief. A few weeks later all the missing items began to slowly resurface. The odd disappearances weren’t discussed any further. Things also stopped disappearing…

Drugs
Knight spoke often about drugs. Sometimes he said he missed them and sometimes he spoke regretfully about them. We had no available “drugs” in our home and no one around him that he could easily bum weed from. He’d told me stories of living around them, doing them, & selling them. There is no future in drugs. He is with me to build a future, therefore drugs are counter-productive. I told him where I stood on the issue of drugs – NO.  No drug talk. No Drug t-shirts. No weed jokes. No drug innuendos. No drugs period. I told that anything that can alter your mind causes you to be out of control and more than anything, he wanted to be in control.

By the end of week 7, our focuses were the same.

  • Maintaining open dialog
  • Pointing out annoying behaviors
  • Bringing lies to Knight’s attention (Taking Ownership of his Words & Actions)
  • Structure in his daily life
  • Consistency in discipline

Knight was almost ready to start working on his next step: Relearning how to communicate with people to earn respect.

Oppositional Defiance Disorder – It’s Someone Else’s Fault

Part 3 (If you need to catch up,  you can read part 2 and part 1 in this series.)

Let’s Build Something

Please keep in mind that working with a child that has ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) is like building a pyramid. While you are laying a foundation, you must keep working on the original cornerstone pieces as you continue to move forward – continuing to work on the next piece. If you neglect one of the cornerstones you’ve laid out before, your entire structure will tumble-down.  So remember as you read through these articles that each week we added 1 new item to work on as we continued to work on the previous things.

Three weeks into this new ODD journey, We had addressed open dialog and bringing annoying behaviors to Knight’s attention in a constructive way so we didn’t sound like we were all against him. On our third week we met an old friend, “Someone Else”.

Someone Else Did It!

No one in our house likes “Someone Else”. “Someone Else” was the most annoying member of the entire family unit. “Someone Else” kept adjusting the thermostat on the heating/air unit. He was always causing drama, defying the rules, and challenging authority. “Someone Else” was a huge nuisance! He was always making messes that everyone else was blamed for. 😦

Taking ownership of our actions and telling the truth are basic fundamentals that we teach our children soon after they begin toddling around and speaking. As parents we emphasis this more so once our children begin to intermingle with other children (Daycare, Pre-School or Kindergarten). It’s a continual thing that we all work on and hope we succeed at once our children have become adults.  I would be a hypocrite if I claimed that my boys were perfect at this when Knight came to live with us. They have and always will be (like everyone else’s children) a work in progress.

Children/teenagers with ODD have an exceptional case of  “Someone Else” though. They deny ownership of issues and actions so much that their reality becomes their lies and denial. After a time, they don’t realize their own lies. It becomes second nature and they incorporate it into who they are (their identity).

I spoke to Knight about the lies I noticed him telling. He denied them. He denied everything he did, everything he said, and everything he was caught in the act of doing. His responses were, “I didn’t do it. Someone else did.” 😦   He lied because he said he thought it was funny. He said he lied to be cool, to be accepted, to make himself feel better, and to annoy people. He said he lied so much even he was unsure how to stop. I offered to bring his lies to his attention as he was in the act of doing so, if it would help. He agreed. Once again, I found myself in a position where I was going to have to call out a negative trait to bring his denial into reality for Knight.

I wanted positivity to focus on though, so I had to search pretty hard. I prayed about it and the Lord planted the answer in my heart. I knew I had to pick my battles and not overwhelm him, but I had forgotten how awesome celebrating small feats with verbal rewards could be! Picking my battles meant that I could not expect him to follow the house rules just yet and I had to look the other way in many situations. My only exception to this was in the event of harmful or abusive threats or behaviors. Those I had to stop immediately. As for the putting the lid back on the toothpaste – that would wait. We celebrated an avoided argument, a door being shut instead of slammed, laughter & smiles, admitting faults, or owning up to truths, talking to his mother on the phone without yelling, speaking to his father without running away or raising his hands to hit. (I’m not saying these things didn’t happen. I am just saying that when a day went by without them happening – we celebrated ) 🙂

Make Every Day a Good Day

Every day we had, no matter how bad it began or ended was “A Good Day”. A good day for a child/teen with ODD may look like the worst possible day for any other child, but if you don’t celebrate even the smallest accomplishments, progress could begin to slide backwards. At the end of the day, I would congratulate Knight on a job well done and tell him it was a good day. At first, he looked at me puzzled (because he was becoming more aware of his behavior and lies). I would tell him that everyday is a good day because I won’t give up on you and you are trying 🙂 The first few days he heard this, he blew me off and went to bed thinking I was crazy. After the first week of hearing this, he began to believe it with me. He also began to look forward to hearing it before bedtime.

On the third week, I purposefully neglected to tell him it was a good day. He came to me and asked me if it was a good day. I answered: Yes honey, everyday is a good day… and he finished my sentence “as long as I try?”  🙂

Believe it or not he was getting better – still very very difficult to live with and be around, but he was healing!

So at this point, I had three major things I was focusing on:

  • Maintaining open dialog
  • Pointing out annoying behaviors
  • Bringing lies to Knight’s attention

To maintain fairness, I shared my plans with my other two boys so they would not feel as though they were being treated unfairly. They know me and their limits and I wanted them to be involved in Knight’s progress plan also. I never shared explicit details, just the basics and kept the conversations Knight and I had only between him, his father and I. My boys were happy to be included because they were feeling they were being treated unfairly.

If you have other children in the home, I would suggest sharing your progress plans with them also (if you feel it appropriate) so your family can grow stronger during this process and not drift apart.

O.D.D. at First Glance

Part 2

O.D.D. at First Glance

For the sake of this subject, I will name the child in question “Knight” for no other reason than I am not using his real name and I am terrible at making up random names.

History

When Knight came to live with us he was already a teenager exhibiting ODD behaviors for a lengthy time (period of years) and was 14 years old. We were told many horror stories from parents, others who knew him, school records, psychological reviews, and from Knight himself. He was being medicated for ADHD although this medication was not seemingly working its magic. His past included theft, habitual lying or truth stretching and was out of touch with reality. He had been to juvenile, participated in many fights at school and in public. He showed complete and total defiance to all authority figures, had trouble making friends and  trouble maintaining established friendships. He had a history of  school suspensions, random outburst, purposely annoying others, threats and acts of violence against others and to himself, hitting or hurting his siblings and parents, failing grades, drug usage, and he was a gang member wannabe.

People he had lived with had made statements like, “I just can’t handle him any more!”.

Open Dialog

Knight moved in with us and we began to merge him into our family. I spent many hours with him one-on-one talking to him about his life and what he wanted for his future during the first two weeks. He was very open and verbal. *In fact, he seemed to enjoy being heard and voicing his own personal concerns, opinions, and thoughts. I emphasized to him that his opinions matter and count toward decision-making, but that my decisions would ultimately trump his if I felt something was not in his best interest. 

When we began to have our conversations, he lied to me about some parts of his past and present. After several more talks though, he began to open up, confess and share with me the real him. Once our open dialog protocol was established (over a 2 week period), we agreed that he should not hide anything from me or else I could not help him. He agreed and has kept this agreement to date (a year later).

Loud Outburst and Annoying Others

We stopped Knight’s ADHD medication. He was not taking it regularly anyway and it was causing his heart to flutter and increased his natural anxiety. Teachers typically recommend against this because they assume that the medication “helps” (and in some children it does). But Knight’s condition was not so much ADHD – this child could, did, and does pay attention. He was/is hyper to the extreme though and enjoyed using his energy to annoy people. He openly admitted that he enjoyed annoying people.

Knight’s first few weeks with us were trying on our nerves as we all needed to adjust to his hyper tendencies. Once he picked on the fact that his hyper actions drove some in the house batty, he played on this weakness. I had talks with my other children about how to react to Knight’s behaviors and expressed that we were to all focus on giving Knight positive attention instead.  I ask them to follow my lead in ignoring the outburst, going on about their business, or changing their location if possible (leaving the room). This provided to be difficult because their ages were so close and my boys were feeling as though I would allow Knight to get away with things they were not allowed to do – ever. After a bit of practice on the boys parts, they were able to follow my instructions with Knight’s negative behavior. They simply had to change their mindset.

Example: Knight is on the couch playing Xbox with one of his new brothers and randomly starts pausing the game at important parts when his new brother is about to achieve success on a mission. Knight’s new brother waits until the game is resumed and then begins to play again. This pause/resume of the game continues throughout a 5 minute time frame about 20 times. Knight’s new brother is frustrated. He sets his controller down and walks away. Knight screams COME BACK and play with me NOW.  His new brother says, “You’re annoying me. There’s something else I’d rather do. You can play alone.” Knight is now upset and confused. He comes to talk to me about it. I explain to him I understand how he and his new brother both feel. I also told him that bringing annoying behavior to his attention should help understand why people were wanting to avoid him. Last I explained that if he wants to make lasting friendships, he will need to figure out a way to channel his hyper energy in ways that do not annoy people.

Example: Knight would walk through the house at different times of the day randomly yelling as loud and shrill as he could.  I spoke with Knight about these random outburst and explained that he was giving everyone a headache. This went on for a couple of months. Outburst changed from a shrill screeching to random words.  We all ignored this behavior and made a huge deal/celebration daily about Knight being able to share his Xbox and game play with his new brothers.

So, in just 3 short weeks we had made progress. We celebrated the accomplishments daily (and we still do) to re-enforce Knight’s awesome traits and the great person he has and is becoming!

I will write more soon about our next steps we took on this ODD journey and what worked – and what backfired!

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