Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Less Anxiety and More Optimism Can Do For Kids

Kids with ADHD often suffer from a very de-bilitating lack of self-esteem. They recognize in themselves that something is different and the heat they get from inability to stay focused, complete tasks, follow-through and generally finding themselves in trouble more-often than not really drives home that there is 'something wrong with them.' ADHD is truly a vicious cycle that feeds itself and feeds the environment around these kids in a threatening and very sad way.

Preston's increase in cognitive awareness, compliance and pleasant demeanor have been absolutely exciting beyond measure for me. That is not to say the battle is over. He still has meltdowns - one just the other day over having to finish a chicken taco for lunch that he quite enjoyed the night before. He fell to absolute pieces over this! I gently escorted him to his room where he was welcome to have his cry, where he stayed for a good ten minutes, sobbing. It was little mind-boggling to me (as it usually is) to have so much emotion wrapped-up in a perfectly good and tasty chicken and cheese taco. Sigh. I'm sure you can relate on some level. At any rate, after ten minutes, he emerged from his room over the tears and slightly more open to some 'taco completion options.' Right there - huge PROGRESS! He didn't destroy his room in his fit or drag anyone else in to it and when he was done he was open to suggestion.

For  me, I simply didn't want a perfectly good taco to go to waste. In the end, older bro ate the taco and Preston had a sandwich. Easy. And that is what I am really working on with him right now - options and solutions; there is more than one way to skin a chicken taco. The big point I want to drive home today is this:

Less negativity and anxiety and increased positives and optimism give kids the chance to function at their best because they feel that they are essentially good kids doing good things. Greater negativity and fighting more battles puts the child in the position of they are always in trouble, therefore they must be a 'bad kid.'
This is a major factor in Preston's latest success, which is in large part due to me as the parent. I have done and recommend doing the following:

1) Lower your expectations. This is key. It is so easy to make the 'little adult assumption' or like Mr. Livingston said in my last post, 'measuring them by the yardstick of my own ears.' I also love that his mantra became: " He is nothing but a boy - a little boy!" All of us are imperfet and essentially irrational (thanks Spock) and quite frankly make really stupid decisions often. Our kids haven't had the experience we have and are going to make more, really stupid decisions. Lower your expectation.

2) Let it go. Choose to let alot of things go that you fight with your child about. There is a line here and you know what it is - when it is a battle you need to fight and when it isn't. If you see a battle ensuing, ask yourself, "Is this a big deal?" A note on battles, if it is a win or lose, the relationship will ALWAYS suffer.

3) Laugh. The last time I went into Preston's room and it was a disaster, literally, I laughed and asked him if a bomb went off. He laughed a little and then I got down and helped him pick up the pieces and we did it together.

4) It's okay to re-direct, cue and praise. Alot of kids are easily distracted, but it's a for-sure-thing with kids with ADHD. Even when they are looking you in the eye and you think they are hearing what you are saying, they are on another planet in the solar system and your signal is pretty weak. You will have to ask more than once and re-direct when they get off task. When they get going, praise them. There is always the 'precision request technique' and counting to get a rapid response (both techniques are mentioned on the 'Parenting' tab).

 5) Re-phrase requests or find another way of getting things done. With Preston, I have found 'I' statements incredibly useful. I constantly tell him what 'I' am doing rather than putting direct pressure on him. "My car is leaving for Super Sports in 5 minutes and who ever is ready is coming with me." Another great example is how I have lately been getting Preston to clean his room at night. I am very organized and my house reflects that. Preston did not get an ounce of my organization gene - in fact, he got the complete opposite and his room reflects that. I told him one night that my 'neat bug' goes crazy over super big messes and I just can't handle coming into his room at bedtime to tuck him in if it is a complete disaster. Well, he loves it when I tuck him in at night (which of course I love as well), so every night when he asks me to tuck him in I ask him how the state of his room is. He will almost always quickly pick up his room and shout out the 'all clear' so that I can come down and tuck him in. How awesome is it that I don't have to nag and he does it on his own? It's totally awesome!

6) Get your hands dirty. Well, not really. I just mean that once in awhile help them out with their chores, cleaning their room, whatever. It's nice to see the boss willing to work alongside the help and kids like to know you aren't just the boss but also a team player and you want them to succeed.
Actively using all of these techniques has increased the positive vibes in our home and most excitingly (is that a word?) it has tremendously increased our relationship. He is so lovey with me right now - something else that is so amazing! He gives me random hugs, tells me he loves me, gives me air hugs from across the room and wants to play. This kids self esteem is at a place I haven't seen it before; really for carefully choosing my battles and joking about the smaller issues to be dealt with rather than coming from a place of frustration and anxiety. This does take time, so don't give up in whatever is that you try.  
What is something you are doing that is working to improve your relationship with your children and amidst your family?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another Good Reminder of Our Ultimate Goal as Parents

I do alot of reading and probably spend too much time reading informational books. I do try to vary things from time to time but with a kiddo with ADHD, I need all the help I can get! It is what it is right? So, for help with my business I picked up Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." I have found this book to be exceptional for everyday inerpersonal interactions. It makes some amazing points that I find myself recalling and putting to use not minutes later. He uses alot of people's mistakes and strengths to drive his points home. There was a particular article that he re-counted that I can't get out of my head and I hope that in giving credit where credit is due I am okay to post that article on my blog today because it will definitely change your day if not your life.

Father Forgets
by W. Livingston Larned
"Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen in your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltly I came to your bedside.
There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded  you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.
At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, "Goodbye, Daddy!" and I frowned, and said in reply, "Hold your shoulders back!"
Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive-and if you had to buy them  you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!
Do you remember, later, when I was reading in this library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesistated at the door. "What is it you want?" I snapped.
You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.
Well, son, it was shortly aftereward that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding - this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.
And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedisde in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!
It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: "He is nothing but a boy - a little boy!"
I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother's arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much."
If someone asked you what your ultimate goal as parent was, what would you say? That they turn out respectable? That they are motivated, driven and responsible? Would it be that they are trustworthy? Kind and selfless? Empathetic? I would hope all of these. In all of the lessons learned from therapists and books I have read about parenting, the most important point is that the relationship comes first. Why? Because kids are still their own person, make their own choices, follow their own path and you can either still be friends and have influence on them if they choose a different path for themselves than you would choose, or you can fight them for the time they are at home and eventually lose them altogether. I love my kids and regardless of where they end up, I want them to always know I love them for who are they are and my door is always open when they need me. If we have a relationship, they will never turn that open door away. As I walk this journey of parenthood, I have to constantly ask myself which battles are important to wage to win the war, but more than anything, what really is most important and invaluable?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

SO Grateful to Be A Mom

Life is busy. It always will be! This is why we always hear sentiment like, 'happiness is a journey, not a destination' and 'stop waiting for the next stage in life to be happy.' This is tough simply because some stages in life's journey are tougher than others. The last couple of years have been extrememly challenging as we've learned about ADHD, felt and dealt with the effects of it at home and in school and struggled to find some answers and solutions. It has been very taxing on me and my family and it has not been easy to find 'joy in the moment.'

I went to a neighbor's house the other night where she had a little get-together for moms to talk about 'taking care of yourself as the mom.' She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and absolutely brilliant and passionate about what she does. Any time she talks - I listen. She said numerous wonderful things and to everyone that was there I'm sure different parts stood out to them. What really hit home with me is that as I have made the choice to be a stay-home mom, I need to really have a conviction of that role. The bigger piece was this:

If you aren't having fun what you are doing, then you are doing something wrong.

I think there are two components to why Preston is thriving right now the first being nutrition and the second being my attitude and having more fun in the day.

1. Nutrition
It is my own personal, non-medical opinion that our brains are in part a result of what we feed them. If something is out of whack in the body, the rest of the body is impacted. If we can't digest our food properly, trace nutrients are not getting to where they need to be nor are they getting the job done to their best ability. I believe that Preston has had some GI issues and since taking him off his medication and putting him on the cleasning juice and nutritional shakes, his digestion has improved and his body is getting more of what it needs, getting rid of what it doesn't need and minerals are getting to the right places. His cognitive abilities right now are very much improved. Are their still issues? Yes. He still has his triggers and can still become emotional very quickly, but these meltdowns are fewer and further between, he works through them quicker and I'm starting to more easily recognize the triggers (hungry, tired, transitioning from Dad's house). All I can ask for is progress and what a blessing that I'm seeing it. I am so grateful! 

2. My Attitude
I have had an enormous weight on my shoulders. As a parent, you feel that when your kid is out of whack - it comes back to you! What am I doing wrong? I am such a failure as a parent! This is tough. There is a big BUT here - we are all still born with our free agency and we all make our own choices. Our role as parent is to TEACH and TRAIN and they will experience natural consequences for their actions. They will learn from just my day to day interactions. The good and bad thing about that is that I'm already seeing it! I'm not sure when the shift happened but one day I realized that I'm going to be sucked dry by this kid or I can take care of myself, relax and just laugh! There are so many battles that aren't worth fighting!

I realized I don't want to look back on my life and remember it as years of struggle and heart ache because I chose to let it affect me that way. There are days when it does break my heart and I don't know what to do. But I'm trying to really shift my mentality to be one of optimism and hope and action! I'm doing what I can! This leads me to the '90/10 Principle' I read about just today. I'd heard the principle before but love the way this was summed up. Take 5 minutes and watch it! I also believe that if we find more gratitude in the day to day, more to be grateful for will continue to appear in our life. And we can do this in our action and reactions. I can only control me!

Finally, this wonderful lady in neighborhood also said to 'lower your standards' (they are just young, dumb kids you know? They haven't had all the experience in life that we have!) and 'look for the checkmark.' What she meant by that is God has something for us to learn when the going gets tough. I loved the perspective of the end product of parenting being the parent and not the kid. Being a parent teaches us patience, it teaches us unconditional love, it teaches us trust, it teaches us self-control, self-development. So, when the going gets tough the best question to ask is, 'What am I being taught right now? What is the lesson I'm supposed to be learning?' She also said the best way to get an answer is to pray about it and she is so right!

What have you found that has been helpful in enjoying being a parent?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Working Through Problems

I dedicate this post to the impressive clear-minded Preston moment that I witnessed just a couple days ago. Regarding sibling rivalry, the back-up argument to allowing kids to handle squabbles amidst themselves is the need to develop problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills. By parents always interjecting and acting as self-appointed judges, we rob them of the opportunity to develop these skills on their own (this is also a big part of Love and Logic parenting as we let them make decisions and act and natural consequences follow). I was super excited to see this in action with none-other than my little Preston whose skills have proven to be severly lacking in this department.

I've been amazed with who this kid has been for the last several days. I have to assume we are simply on the uptake of his natural mood and mind cycle, but he has been amazing - especially given the fact that most of his big life stressors including step-parent, step-siblings and chores have all been present. School is still three weeks off - oh have mercy! I do believe there have been several helpful factors which I will mention in a moment. But I now present to you Preston's big problem-solving moment...

I was in the kitchen preparing food of some sort while Preston and Braeden were playing with Bentley in the living room just around the corner. It sounded like it was starting to get a little wild when Preston started getting upset. He came into the kitchen and said, "Mom. Braeden was just pinching me and I didn't appreciate it." Pause. I was about to give him my 'I trust you that you can work this out with Braeden' line or intervene (may not count as abuse, but physical stuff always escalates quickly) when he said before I could start, "I'm going to go back in the room and tell him how it made me feel." ?!! I told him that I thought that sounded like a great idea and I fully supported him. As he went around the corner, I was still caught off guard by that statement. Part of me wondered if it was lip service and I prepared to break up a fight. But no - he went back in and I heard him say, "Braeden, I really didn't appreciate you pinching me. It made me feel uncomfortable. I would like it if you wouldn't do that in the future." ??!!!! And this was great - Braeden, without making excuses or being snide simply apologized.

That was an awesome moment. Both Jason and I smiled and chuckled a little at this boy who normally has complete meltdowns when things don't go quite right. Especially when Braeden starts invading his space. WOW! I made sure to compliment Preston and make a fuss over how proud I was of him. I also asked him how it felt and if he noticed Braeden's easy response. No fighting, no fuss. He has the capacity to regulate himself, I've just got to figure out how to help him stay calm and work through problems intead of getting upset regularly.

As for his current state of goodness, I do think it is a good 'cycle' but I also think some of what Jason and I have been doing has something to do with this. Jason, as the step-parent has stepped away from disciplining Preston. He makes small and simple requests but keeps them limited. He also working on hard on giving Preston lots of positives. Preston actually followed-through on hanging his church clothes up on Sunday and he brought them up to show Jason and I heard Jason make a tremendous fuss - so fabulous and so important.

I met a cute gal at the park one day who also had a blended family and that was her biggest piece of advice for me - don't discipline your step-kids; let the blood-parent handle that. For me as the blood parent, I've been much more relaxed. As I mentioned in my last post I'm more carefully picking and choosing battles, finding humor in situations that would have otherwise wound me up, and using humor with him when he is naughty (obviously not super naughty - small infractions). I think my being more relaxed is helping him to be more relaxed and I think his anxiety is a very big trigger to his ADHD tendencies and emotional meltdowns. We've also been playing more games together as a family and that is always helpful. We played Ticket to Ride the other night and while one kiddo kept getting blocked and started to cry, Preston got blocked and said, "Oh well. I just got blocked! But I'm okay see!" Luckily the delivery didn't sting the other kid, that little voice of Preston's just made us all laugh. Another awesome moment. And he even planned his route on his own and came in second place - beating me! Luckily, I didn't cry either. :)

As a parent of an ADHD kiddo that has had some pretty awful moments, it lights up my heart and gives me strength and hope when he has some pretty awesome moments as well.