Jan 09

Be the patience you want to see

This is an excerpt from The Resilient Parent: Everyday Wisdom for Life with Your Exceptional Child, by Mantu Joshi. Mantu is the father of three children, a minister, stay-at-home dad, and a writer. The Resilient Parent offers short person essays to help us reframe the experience parenting children with special needs so we can be more resilient parents!

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I hate transitions. I hate that I cannot just beam my children from activity to activity like in Star Trek, or get them from the minivan into the house by wiggling my nose like Samantha in those old Bewitched episodes. No, we have to physically get from point A to point B, which means that someone is likely to throw a tantrum. Continue reading

Aug 06

Why People Drive You Crazy

Especially those crazy-makers we call our kids!

Have you ever wondered why some people can’t get anything done and others can’t relax?

Why your kids react so differently to the same parenting methods?

Why some babies are calm and others hard to console?

Why your behavior changes around certain people?

Why getting along can be so difficult?

Why People Drive You Crazy: Part One: A Fresh Look at Temperament is the book for you. Karyn Van Der Zwet spent the last seven years poring over psychology, anthropology, physical health, and neurology trying to find out what provides each one of us with a sense of well-being. The answers she found dismantled many commonly held beliefs we rely on to parent our children and relate to each other.

Karyn distills this information into short and insightful sections in her newly released book, the first in a series. She explains temperament, personality, and different reactions to stress. The bulk of the book has to do with understanding and succeeding in our relationships with different temperament types.  Throughout the book she uses her own categories for four main temperaments: Owl, Hare, Butterfly, and Tortoise. I tend to shy away from such divisions, but I notice these names are easily remembered and quite useful. I’m mostly Owlish. Now I know why I clam up around Butterfly types and become frustrated by bossy Hares. More importantly, I see situations that I normally blame on myself differently and, thanks to hundreds of hints Karyn shares, have more constructive ways to deal with them.

This no-nonsense book is platitude-free and packed with practical tips. I think it’s particularly useful for parents. It’s not an overreach to say this is the sort of book that helps us make childhood better for our children. As Karyn notes in the first section,

Sometimes, people drive us crazy because their temperaments are different from our own. It is common to attribute certain behaviors to flaws in character, which are actually normal and uncontrollable biological reactions based in temperament. Sometimes we see behaviors in another, which reflect our own internal state or temperament. If we learned these behaviors were unacceptable or undesirable then, too, we may find the other person irritating…

Temperament is not destiny. If parents manage their children’s temperament well, the more extreme aspects can be modified and the children can, eventually, learn to manage their temperament for themselves.

The Kindle version is only 99 cents. For one week only, get 15 percent off the paperback price of $7.40 using this code created for Easy To Love readers: S2LW47CN

May 02

Guest blog: What’s WRONG with you?

“What is WRONG with you??” is exactly what you really want to say a lot of the time when your kid is a lawless little darling like McDiesel. It’s pretty much a reflex. So it’s the hardest thing tostop saying. And so we all say it—me, Husband (Number One), big brother—even though we shouldn’t.

For instance: in the space of forty minutes (and probably less) the other afternoon, McDiesel dumped a big box of packing peanuts all over the garage (undermining attempted organization in progress), a mug of hot cocoa (almost full) all over the kitchen table and rug, a just-opened twenty-pound bag of Iams (mini chunks—worst case scenario—and completely full), and then a brand-new bag of birdseed (also completely full) all over the sunroom floor. (Still have no idea where this bag materialized from but do know I hid it somewhere—proactively—to avoid just such a mess). Packing peanuts might have been any kid, but by the birdseed “What is WRONG with you??” was all I had left (as I— smelling like dog food and still holding table cloth, sponge, and paper towels all dripping with cocoa—looked incredulously at pile of birdseed on rug). Continue reading

Aug 04

Another Crappy Day?

crappy day, positive attitude, why we're so negative,

 

I’ve had one of those days. A steaming pile of crap sort of day. You know how it is.

We all have them. When the morning starts out with headache, an angry tailgater or the continuation of some tough circumstances the bad mood usually isn’t far behind. This has a ripple effect. We complain to others, tipping conversational topics toward what grinds and grates. And somehow that negative outlook sets our personal radar to scan for more difficulty on the horizon. Those days rarely improve.

Some of us hold out a little longer. We work hard at emphasizing the positive, which is handy because moods are downright contagious. Studies show an individual’s emotions can influence entire groups (families, playgrounds, workplaces). Positive contagion leads to more cooperation and less conflict. Negative contagion, well, you know how fun that can be. Apparently moods stick like that pink goo from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

No one is upbeat all the time. Besides, constantly perky people inspire loathing. But I keep learning the necessity of choosing the way we experience life’s ups and downs. You know how easy it is to focus on five minutes of difficulty rather than the smooth progress of the day. We do it all the time. A child’s angry outburst overshadows hours of cooperation. A colleague’s late return from lunch somehow reflects badly on a week’s worth of work. Or a whole slew of minor problems start to look like a steaming pile.

I’ve discovered while reading Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom that we’re fighting a hard-wired tendency. Our brains pay more attention to the negative than the positive. That was probably helpful when saber-toothed tigers threatened our early ancestors. Not so helpful these days.

Fortunately I live on a small farm where the cows produce loads of actual crap. So I know what to expect from it. Whether mixed in to the garden beds or left in a heap, eventually it bursts into flower.

The same potential lies dormant in our worst days. No matter what, we’re still in charge of our own attitudes.

Because “sh*t happens” is only one way to look at it. “Compost happens” too.

 

Laura Grace Weldon works on her attitude daily. Not always successfully. She’s the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything.

 

Aug 02

Introducing…the INSTIGATOR!

Introducing…the INSTIGATOR!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a whirling dervish of destruction, it’s a screaming mimi (whatever that is!), it’s…THE INSTIGATOR!

Angrier than a wet cat, louder than a cackle of crows, looking for trouble wherever he goes, the INSTIGATOR seeks a response from YOU, his mother, his favorite plaything, his puppet on a string, and the louder he can make you scream, the more nerves he can work, the higher he can drive your frustration so that you finally burst, well – the better he has done his job. Deep down he has some other motive for this behavior – be it attention seeking, proprioceptive input, attachment problems, mood fluctuations, boredom…but the motivations don’t matter because the end result is the same: the INSTIGATOR will do whatever it takes to get a reaction from those who care for him, the bigger the reaction the better.

And although it seems that when the INSTIGATOR appears, his normally mild-mannered (?)  alias has gone away…you guessed it, the INSTIGATOR and my son, Little J. are one and the same!

(A quick aside, in case you aren’t a regular reader of this blog or don’t have my life story memorized: Little J, 9, has a variety of neurological atypicalities, has been diagnosed with ADHD, PDD, ODD, SPD, takes medication for ‘mood disorder of a cyclical nature (bipolar?) and most probably all of this is related to FASD – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which he’s been evaluated for next month. All of that points to big problems regulating his behavior, although some days are much, much better than others. Today is not one of those days.)

And today the INSTIGATOR must have important business to do because he has completely subsumed his alias! The INSTIGATOR is out and ready to get to work!

Phew! It was hard work carrying that metaphor that far, even though it’s completely how I feel about the INSTIGATOR that lives inside my child, not to be confused with DESTRUCTO, who also rears his ugly head from time to time. DESTRUCTO, though annoying and expensive, is actually easier to deal with than the INSTIGATOR as the former takes his energy out on things, and the latter focuses on people.

Take what just went down in my house in the last hour, for example.

Here’s the scene: Little J and his brother are watching TV. Looney Tunes, I believe. Little J slept the whole night and woke up late, breakfasting on pizza. He had his (stimulant and mood) medication at 9. It lasts about 4.5 hours. This is relevant because what happened next happened within the window of medication effectiveness, and therefore can’t be blamed on meds wearing off or meds not taking effect yet, which also cause the INSTIGATOR to appear.

At 12:00 I tell the boys to turn off the TV. Wait, back up. At 11:30 I tell them the TV needs to go off in half an hour. At 11:45 I tell them 15 minutes. At 12:00 I say to turn it off and IT BEGINS.

The INSTIGATOR makes his appearance. With a bang.

“What’d you do that for, you son-of-a-bitch!” he yells at his brother, who’s switched off the TV.

“Mom said to turn it off.”

“NO SHE DIDN’T”

“Yes she did.”

“Yes, I did,” I say, thinking that Little J may not have heard me.

“Well, you’re a BIG FAT BITCH!” Little J screams.

I sigh. I wait a beat. Sometimes it’s best not to react. Little J and his brother move into the dining room where they have several Lego projects set up.

I retreat to my computer, located in the office next to the dining room. I have several work projects I’m trying to get done. I type one sentence and I hear bloodcurdling screams.

‘You’re an ASSHOLE. I HATE YOU! WHY’D YOU DO THAT?”

I go in the room. Little J has a steak knife (where’d that come from? Note to self: lock up steak knives) and he’s waving it around, a safe distance from his brother so I know he’s not actually going to try anything, but still – a bad scene.

I confiscate the knife. “What’s going on?”

“HE WRECKED MY LEGOS!” Little J says.

“You were throwing them at me,” his brother explains.

“NO I WASN’T!” I have no doubt that Little J was, in fact, throwing Legos at his brother, but I also have no doubt that Little J sees no connection between his own annoying behavior and his brother’s reaction.

“You need to calm down,” I say.

“I DON’T CARE! I HATE YOU! I WISH I LIVED SOMEWHERE ELSE! I’M GOING OUTSIDE!”

“Great,” I say. “Why don’t you hit some nails while I make you lunch.”

“I WANT PIZZA!”

“I don’t have pizza. I’m making grilled cheese.”

“I HATE YOUR STUPID GRILLED CHEESE! YOU MAKE IT BAD!”

“Fine, but that’s what I’m making.”

“I HATE LUNCH I’M NOT EATING IT I WANT TO GO SWIMMING!”

“You’re going swimming tomorrow with Grandma.”

“I HATE SWIMMING.”

“Oh brother,” I mutter. Call me slow, but I’ve finally figured out what’s going on. Grumpy Little J has made the switch to the INSTIGATOR and there’s not much I can do about it except to try to get away from him. “Look,” I say. “Go outside. Go hit nails. Climb a tree. Do something to calm yourself down. I’ll call you when the grilled cheese is ready.”

“I HATE GRILLED CHEESE.”

“You don’t have to eat it. But go outside.”

“NO NO NO NO NO!”

At this point I grab him by the arm and march him out the back door. “Go away from me. Now.” I am really frustrated. This behavior can go on for hours and not much can stop it except the numbing power of TV, and since he’s already watched 3 hours at this point I’m reluctant to turn the set back on.

I shut the door and wait a moment to see if he’ll push it back open, slam something into the kitchen window (he hasn’t broken it yet, but I know the day is coming), or try to start something new. But it doesn’t happen and I go to the stove to work on the grilled cheese.

After a few minutes I start to worry. This is my constant state when Little J is out of eye- or ear-shot, since I never know what he’s doing and I can’t trust that he won’t destroy something, get into his dad’s tools, tie the dogs to a tree, or leave our 2-acre fenced-in yard without telling me, which is absolutely not allowed, but it still happens..

Sure enough, when I step outside to check on him 2 minutes later, he’s gone. I walk out onto our rural road and peer up and down the street, wondering which neighbor I should call (for the 3rd time this week) to see if they’ve seen him. Then I spot him coming out of one of my neighbor’s houses.

“Come here, now,” I say.

“Why? Why? I don’t’ want to! I’m scared of you!”

“Scared of me?” This is a hot-button phrase, and he knows it. “SCARED OF ME? YOU KNOW WHO WAS SCARED? ME! WHEN YOU LEAVE THE YARD AND DON’T TELL ME WHERE YOU’RE GOING I GET REALLY, REALLY SCARED!”

“Shut up,” he says, deadpan. “You’re an idiot.”

I grab his arm and march him inside. “To your room,” I say.  And miracle upon miracle, he goes. “I’m setting the timer. 15 minutes.”

And he stays. 15 blessed minutes. 15 minutes where he’s not screaming at anyone.

But then the buzzer goes off and he comes downstairs…and it starts all over again.

 

Adrienne Ehlert Bashista lives in central North Carolina with her husband and 2 boys, ages 9 and 12. She is a contributor and co-editor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. To read all of Adrienne’s posts on this blog, please click here.