Attitude Intervention

Quick addition at the top… Please order some candy so my girls can go to China… did I mention we might be working in an orphanage?

Kim suggested that I write more about what is going on in our lives, particularly about what is going on with the boy. ?I’ve been reluctant to write about him. ?What I often have to say is a bit complainy and when I complain I get emails from people saying I shouldn’t do that. ?Because I don’t write about him very often one would assume that things are great. ?Of course you know what assuming does… makes an ass out of you and ming.

In this case, assuming that things are spectacular is frankly a big fat WRONG. (I’ll write a post later about what is right, but it will be significantly shorter.)

Christmastime is pretty much awful around here. ?It has been since the first year we brought the boy home. ?That first year he went 3 days without eating and I wore every scrap of food that was put in front of him. ?It was bad. ?The following year was a slightly better, but not a whole lot. ?Last year wasn’t that bad simply because we didn’t have the tons of family around that we usually do. ?This year… O-M-G.

The holiday season is a compounding factor of crappy behaviour. ?There isn’t any one thing or person to blame so I don’t want to sound like I’m calling someone out on the boy’s behaviour. ?I’m just putting that out there.

It all starts when I have 2 1/2 solid weeks of candy making. ?Over the years I’ve learned to make candy in a way that 1) involves the child and 2) lessens the impact on his schedule. ?I also have times when friends come and they bring their children so the boy has someone to play with. ?It is a disruptive time in our lives, but we manage. ?This year we added another layer, a dog. ?No, a gigantic puppy (who is quickly beginning to out weigh the child). ?The boy has been talking about wanting a dog, we have been looking at getting a dog, but the child had no clue how disruptive a very large puppy would be. ?Especially a very high energy puppy. ?He can’t play in his play room like he used to. ?He can’t leave his bedroom door open like he used to. ?He can’t go outside and play like he used to. ?It has thrown everything off.

So now we have chocolates and a dog. ?Chocolates end, dad goes on vacation, school is out for winter break and the family shows up. ?The trusty husband on vacation means another change to the schedule. ?School being out means there is no structure at. all. ?The family showing up means yet another change to the schedule. ?Plus we are trying to potty train the dog so she goes with us wherever we go. ?The family lives 30 minutes away so we drive down to see them almost every day. ?The trusty niece is in the mix and while a 5 year old and a 7 year old can play together well, there is just that little bit of a difference. ?Then Christmas shows up. ?Toys galore, but since we are traveling back and forth to Olympia there isn’t much time to play with his new toys without hauling them, us, the dog and the kitchen sink to Olympia. ?Then the boy got sick. ?Then when he was sick we still took him to Seattle to see the Rockettes (non refundable tickets on the last day of the show). ?Then the family leaves (where there is a trust issue), the trusty husband goes back to work, the boy goes back to school and we still have that dog.

It’s like the perfect set-up for what happens next.

My child does not have a whine factor like most children. ?Most children will sit there and whine and sulk if they don’t get their way. ?It is annoying, but doesn’t make you want to stab yourself in the eye. ?My child goes from 0-10,000 in the blink of an eye. ?There is no intermediate quiet whining. ?It is full on screaming until he’s nearly throwing up. ?We suspect that his slight vocal tic is a result of throat irritation from the screaming. ?It is bad my friends, very very bad. ?Trouble is people outside of our house never see the screaming because he only does it when it’s just us. ?Not only is there screaming there is serious talking back. ?My child developed the attitude of a 13 year old girl.

The screaming and the attitude were so bad that at one point I locked myself in my bedroom and cried. ?I didn’t want to be around the child. ?The joy I felt at being his mom was totally gone.

There came a point a few weeks ago where I couldn’t stand it anymore. ?An hour and a half of straight screaming pushed me over the edge. ?It was that moment that I seriously considered calling a child psychologist. ?I’m still considering it. ?For the time being I took matters into my own hands and staged an attitude intervention.

Now I’m not sure if my methods were the best, but so far the scream level and the talk back level are about 1/2 of what they were. ?Things are not perfect by any means, but they are better. ?What did I do? ?I removed 1/2 of all of the boy’s toys. I took out every single toy box, stuffed animal, fun thing in his room. ?I left him with his stereo, books and play kitchen (but not food or utensils). ?He did get to keep all of the toys in the play room. ?He also lost all TV, computer and Wii privileges while at home. ?The deal is, if he can make it through a whole day without screaming or talking back he gets a box of toys back. ?If he screams or talks back he loses a box from the play room or one he’s earned back. ?So far he’s earned and lost the same box of matchbox cars over and over. ?He still has no TV or video game privileges.

Like I said, it may not be the best system, but it’s making life slightly more livable in our house.

12 Comment

  1. Kim says: Reply

    Oh Elle! You have my sympathy and support. Those that criticize can go take a long walk off a short pier! Most of us that have post-institutionalized children have stories that could curl folks hair. Some don’t…lucky them. It’s this kind of stuff that we all need to talk about. We can learn from each other and support each other and make fun of each other if need be!

    I’ve had quite a few Mommie Dearest moments since we brought my little man home. I’m not proud of them, but they happen. Holidays, vacations, Daddy going on a trip… all those things cause different behaviors in our house. My son is extremely anxious. EXTREMELY! If you say “we’re going to get a haircut” and the line is 75 people long, you’d best pull up a chair and wait. If you try to change the plan and leave without a haircut, be prepared for the ABC song… at top, screaming volume, accompanied by near constant chatter, nonsense questions, odd bodily noises and bossy back seat direction giving. He doesn’t tolerate changes to the plan, or transitions well at all.

    I’ve made several changes to my parenting style, most prompted by the Mommie Dearest moment in which I came to yelling at him to go to his room before I locked him in the oven on a clean cycle. (for those without a sense of humor, I would NEVER do that!) It had been several tough days in a row and I was yelling and taking away privileges on a near daily basis. Not exactly the sort of parent I wanted to be, right?

    I was encouraged to do some more reading on Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control. It’s a bit on the touchy-feely side, but I gotta say it’s helped… a LOT. It just has.

    Life isn’t perfect, and he still doesn’t do change or transitions well, but I’ve found better ways to handle it. Our house has been a much more pleasant place to live lately and my son is more affectionate and calm. When the ABC song appears, instead of getting frustrated, I take it as a clear sign that things are headed downhill and intervene THEN.

    I’m so glad that you’ve made progress. The reduction in stuff is definitely the right way to go, obviously. Adopting my son has been the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done, but it’s driven me to the brink a time or two!

    May you have a peaceful, scream free, sass-free day!

  2. Nat says: Reply

    My little guy is the same age as yours, and his timeline for adoption from Russia is almost identical to your sons. We have issues 🙂 I’d love to chat about some of these issues are, and let me just say that our stories are so strikingly similar (down to the mom in tears bit). I would prefer to e-mail though. I can’t figure out where your e-mail address is, but if you’d like to shoot me an e-mail first I’d be happy to share where we’re at, and where we’re headed. Hang in there.

  3. bethee says: Reply

    Elle, We had issues. Boy, did we have issues. Issues that we didn’t choose to see and just swept under the rug or passed off as “slightly more than normal hyper four year old behavior”. What did we end up doing? We got him into Occupational Therapy. Within weeks, things had improved to the point where the sass was down to 10% of what it was. His attention span expanded to the point where he could sit in circle time without the teacher having to make him sit in her lap. Diagnosis? Sensory Integration (mild) and a weak core. OT really has changed out lives. Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information or just chat. Been there, done that. In spades.

    But our Insurance covers the OT and our lives are SO much better.

  4. kim hartman says: Reply

    Bravo for the changes you have made. I like the plan very much. Thank you also, for the lengthy post, it is nice to see you back in action!

  5. It happens and those of us who have post-institutionalized children know exactly what you’re talking about. As I posted on my blog a while back, ‘if I’m not blogging about the kids, it’s not because things are going well – it’s because things are going poorly.’ And you know what – I think all parents do that, adopted or not. Parents always come across as constantly bragging about their kids. I think it’s because when our kids do something right and normal for a change we are so incredibly thrilled that we want to shout it from the mountaintops: my kids are okay!!! As for taking stuff away, that is a very good technique. We’ve taken my son’s bedroom down to just clothing and furniture in the past and he’s had to earn back all of his toys and privileges. And it works to get back into line truly out of control behaviors that most people have no experience with. Good luck!

  6. mom says: Reply

    Happy to see you’re writing again.. with passion. Fearing to go where you want to go is a big mistake. As you can see, reinforcement of your sanity gets validated by this post. Yay! If people take offense to O’s behavioral problems… take a hike on the reading of your blog! Getting validation that you are a GOOD parent while learning YOUR child’s issues came with the package, while gaining insight as to how to help with the problems are awesome! You’re NOT crazy… you’re a mom. Hugs 🙂

  7. mom says: Reply

    Oh… we’re still on for the 30th, right?

  8. Yikes…sounds rough! Hope you find something that works for all of you.

  9. Mary says: Reply

    Your child may need a child psychiatrist, but you definitely need an adult one first. Motherhood has its challenges, but nobody should be this angry.

  10. My goodness – it’s just never easy, is it?? My son has a screaming issue too, but it’s autism-related. It’s a drag – I can relate! Good luck to you, lady. 🙂

  11. […] ?The point of cleaning the garage was to extract the toys that were previously removed during the attitude intervention. ?Which went well, but we stopped giving toys back when we ran out of age appropriate toys. ?The […]

  12. […] has been quite the year.  We started the year with an attitude intervention for the boy.  That lasted for all of about 5 days before he figured out that empty beer cans and […]

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