This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Helicopters, Drill Sargeants and Consultants, Oh My!

I went to Hubby for reassurance, but didn't get it. Hubby is sooo tired lately I feel guilty even talking to him, much less asking him to try to speak my love language, but maybe he didn't say it because he believes I am too.

So in this negative mood, I read Helicopters, Drill Sargeants and Consultants: Parenting Styles and the Messages They Send by Jim Fay (one of the authors of the Love and Logic series).

Helicopter Parenting Style - Rescuers who give the message to their children that the parent should take care of everything. The parents who bring lunches and forgotten homework to school and protect them from the cruel world. When Kitty and Bear first got here, this was definitely my parenting style. They "needed" and "deserved" it. Finally I realized I was draining myself and not doing them any good.

I read a lot of Love and Logic books and other parenting techniques, what worked for others and finally developed the FAIR Club, thus switching to a more "Consultant" style, focusing on natural consequences and holding the kids accountable for their actions. This felt right and I was a better, calmer parent. I think I did fairly well but over the years I've found myself becoming more and more of a Drill Sergeant with Kitty and Bear.

Immediately after reading this short little book (H, DS and C), I felt like pond scum. It was Sunday morning, the kids were at Grandma's, Hubby had just left for the lake, I was hormonal, and I curled up in bed and wanted to cry. It was only 8am so I went to sleep instead. 1/2 hour later I work up a little refreshed, and with a new perspective. I finally realized why I wasn't a Consultant parent with Kitty and Bear.

I'd loved the Love and Logic book for kids. It helped me remain calm and stop rescuing and controlling my kids. When I heard there was a Love and Logic book for parents with teens I was sooo excited. When I read it, I discovered why a total Love and Logic approach won't work for my kids.

One, it requires Love and Empathy - kids have to feel guilt and want to please thier parents and do what's right. Duh, this does not describe Bear, and it only recently and still incompletely describes Kitty.

Two, it requires Logic. Kitty and Bear do not have discipline problems, they have behavior problems. In other words they're not misbehaving because they want to, but because they can't control themselves. Most of the time their behavior is irrational.

Something that Bear said in therapy yesterday came to mind. We were talking about his birth parents and he described his bio father as abandoning and his biomom as neglectful (not his exact words of course). The therapist drew a parallel to how he's treating us (Hubby and I). No one really went there, but I suddenly understand why he might need all this structure... without it he feels abandoned. He needs our constant reassurance that we care enough to be right there.

A reader (and still good friend) commented:

What does Bear have to live for? What joy does he have in his life? You've told
him he won't be allowed to.... limited... restricted... grounded... taken it away from him at the last minute. If I were him, I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. I would resent the hell out of you and make your life an emotional hell.
I totally agree Denise. He does resent the hell out of us and makes our lives an emotional hell.

The thing is, in the beginning when we (and others before us) gave him total nurturing, blank slates, didn't give him any limitations, restrictions, or boundaries... then we/they were "neglectful and abandoning" and he resented us and made our lives a living hell.

When he showed us he was getting more mature and responsible, we lightened up on his limits, restrictions and boundaries... and we were "neglectful and abandoning" and he resented us and made our lives a living hell.

Due to his perception issues, Bear does not allow anything less than total structure. Even the slightest lightening in structure he seems to take as a crack in our defenses and it terrifies him to the point that he loses it and almost seems to force us to tighten up again. Maybe I'm off, but that's how it feels.

Of course this is just a feeling. I can't prove it. So I'll keep going on. Knowing in my head that I'm doing what I think is right, and still continually kicking myself because it just doesn't feel right to treat my child like this. It feels even more wrong because I can't stop myself from resenting him for the control he has over my life. I hate that he has the ability to make me feel like a vengeful, vindictive witch.


This week I mentioned to Bear's therapist that I think maybe he needs a new psych eval. In less than 10 months he will be "cured" from his RAD (which is a "childhood" disease). When we left our last therapist, he suggested several personality disorders for Bear (borderline, antisocial and narcassistic). We'd talked about these suggestions with Bear's new therapist early on in his treatment.

I asked Bear's current therapist what he thought now.

Antisocial Personality Disorder - He still doesn't think Antisocial Personality Disorder fits Bear. I look at the list and see that at one time or another Bear's had all the characteristics, but he doesn't have them all now. Still some of them, but not all.

Characteristics of people with antisocial personality disorder may include:

  • Persistent lying or stealing (he seems to be doing better on this lately)

  • Apparent lack of remorse or empathy for others

  • Cruelty to animals (he has no empathy for them, but I've not seen him hurt one more than pushing a cat away roughly)

  • Poor behavioral controls — expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper

  • A history of childhood conduct disorder (this improved though when he was properly diagnosed and medicated for bipolar)

  • Recurring difficulties with the law (again, not since he left residential treatment)

  • Promiscuity

  • Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others

  • Aggressive, often violent behavior; prone to getting involved in fights (again, not so much now that he's left residential treatment - depending on your definition of aggressive)

  • Inability to tolerate boredom

  • Disregard for right and wrong

  • Poor or abusive relationships

  • Irresponsible work behavior

  • Disregard for safety (heat exhaustion! I had to force him to stop working when he was starting to show signs of problems)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the disorder that the therapist said, "If I have to pick one it would probably be that one."

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) -

  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

  • Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

  • Rarely acknowledges mistakes and/or imperfections

  • Requires excessive admiration (Bear demands it from girlfriends, wants it from everyone, but family refuse to give it to him - which may be part of why he resents us)

  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations (he expects everyone to shut up and stop "being annoying" - especially to stop having fun)

  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends - most definitely!!!!

  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling or unable to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her (I'm not sure on this one since he keeps this kind of thing to himself)

  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitude. (definitely - and only HE is allowed to have an attitude).

Borderline Personality Disorder - this is the one that Biomom has. We were at the end of our time, so the therapist didn't really comment on this one.

A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, as well as marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1.Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
2.A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
3.Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. (This one it depends. He changes personalities like a chameleon - his current cowboy kick is pretty strong, and we haven't heard much about the underwater welding lately... I think it depends on what he gets feedback from. He used to flip around a lot more before the military and pro football options were removed).
4.Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5 (again, this one has been worse in the past, and his lack of impulse control is definitely an issue for him, but maybe not so much self-damaging).
5.Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself. (not seeing so much now. Has not cut since before residential treatment).
6.Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
7.Chronic feelings of emptiness (I believe this is true, but he doesn't talk about feelings ever so it's hard to say)
8.Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights). (haven't seen much in the way of physical fights since residential)
9.Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms


Debbie said...

I'm not a therapeutic mom, so my perspective on this just comes from long-term reading of your blog, along with Claudia's, Cindy Body's, and several others. I'm pretty sure that you read Claudia and Cindy's blogs too, and I wonder if you read them to be saying what I sometimes do, which is "some of our worst kids' worst behaviors CAN'T be parented out of them (therapeutically or otherwise) and all that happens when we try is that everyone becomes even more miserable." Whenever they post about something like that, I think of you.

One thing that I think it's crucial for you to keep in mind is that your INTENTIONS are good. I believe your motivations for what you've done and are doing with Bear are completely motivated by your desire to teach him how to be successful. But I wonder if there comes a point when it's time to realize that it's not going to work. That if he's going to learn to be successful, it's not going to be through the restrictions and consequences that you've tried to use to teach him. In fact, it's probably going to be a long, awful process will be painful to watch and painful to go through. Exactly what you're trying to save him from, and yet, in trying to save him, maybe you're just making everyone (including you) miserable NOW and not actually saving any of the future misery that's going to come along just the same.

I know that sounds pretty hopeless, and you'd probably be better off discussing the options with someone like the uber-experienced Claudia, but ... I do think of you whenever these parents of traumatized-kids-now-adults say, "I wish I'd realized earlier that disciplining like a maniac wasn't actually going to do my kids any good."

Hang in there! I know you're doing your very best. The untraumatized among us appreciate your struggle. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad you still call me a friend!

Keeping you always in prayer.