Cultivating Relationships with difficult children

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by DaisyFace, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    This has been mentioned in a few recent threads....and I was wondering what everyone else thinks about this...

    It is very common for therapists to recommend "relationship building" activities with our difficult children. Take your child to do something special...just the two of you...use the time to discuss the child's interests, don't focus on negatives....just have a good time...

    And while that sounds all well and good - I'll be darned if I can get it to work in real life!

    My difficult child lies like she breathes. I have a very hard time having a conversation with her about anything...what comes out of her mouth is just outrageous!

    The second problem I have is that our perception of things is so different. difficult child and I will go shopping - I will think we had a nice time....while difficult child complains how horrible it was...or will say something just completely hurtful about it.

    Trying to have these "relationship building" activities usually leaves me feeling emotionally drained, frustrated and hurt - like I just went 20 rounds in the boxing ring instead of spending time with my child.

    Anybody else experience this?
  2. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    My daughter won't have anything to do with me, won't go shopping or cook with me. Relationship building won't work for us, especially when she gets angry at me and says "well, there goes your last chance to have a relationship with me! You just blew it!". I can wait until she comes to her senses when she's mature. She knows where to find me. I'm tired of getting hurt.
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    DF, I think this goes right along with what I posted about family counseling! husband and I thought last week/end went really well, considering... Onyxx had a "horrible" time.

    Let's go do something - oh, that's dumb, that's dumb, that's dumb... Well, what do you want to do? I dunno.

    So-and-so said such-and-such and she told me X, Y and Z... When so-and-so hasn't even spoken to her in months...

    Yeah. I'm right there with you.
  4. Methuselah

    Methuselah New Member

    Yes, but with me, I am at the point where I don't want to build a relationship. :-( I am so tired of being used and abused, blamed, lied to and about, conned, manipulated, stolen from, etc., the thought of "building" a relationship is an insult. Why would I want to hang around for more? It is not like she has moments where she treats me kindly. If she isn't doing anything directly psychopathic, in that moment, she still has never apologized for any of the horrible things she has done previously. If I felt it would help, I woud consider it, not necessarily do it, but consider it. My difficult child 1, especially, has fought us day one, so the thought she would magically change at this point is ridiculous.
  5. Bunny

    Bunny Guest

    I have, on more than one occasion, said to husband, "You deal with him. I am done!" His response is that my aggravation and anger is part of the problem, which I agree with, but at the same time, why should I keep banging my head against the wall over and over again if I am getting no where?

    Knowing the type of person that I am, I know that I will continue to try because I want to be able to say that I did everything that I could, but it does get frustrating and it can be very hurtful.
  6. Methuselah

    Methuselah New Member

    I am the same way. This is what I say to difficult child 1 every time she ask to go live with another family/future victims. I don't want to wonder if I did everything; I want to know.
  7. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    As I put it to husband last night (he was a tad bit upset about Onyxx's koi last night)...

    We have done everything we know how, including letting trained people take over...
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think there is a huge difference in doing something that is costing money and doing something that is relationship building and is something that both parent and child can enjoy together.

    Sure most teens would love to go shopping. That doesnt mean they would love to have a parent tag along though they would put up with them to have the parental pocketbook. Then they could complain about what a downer it was.

    Even at Cory's worst times he loved hunting and fishing. Those cost relatively little. The most expensive would be deep sea fishing. Cory, Jamie and his father went hunting and fishing all the time though if Cory was in trouble that would be taken away for a day or two. Not for long because it was a very good bond between all of them. Those are still some of the strongest bonds between them.

    If you are trying to build relationships based on things it will never work. You have to base relationships on emotions and mutual likes and interests. Just shopping at Macy's wont do it. Maybe start small with a certain book or movie or even an interest of hers that you can meet her on. If she likes anime for example, do some research and maybe learn to talk about that and watch videos on the computer with her.
  9. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    OK. So, I'm one of the ones bringing up this relationship stuff, guess I have to speak up, right?

    There's more than one type of GFGness. What works for one situation won't work for another.
    Things that make relationship building really difficult include:
    - brain injury
    - mental illnesses like borderline personality, etc. - the ones that are really hard to manage
    - Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
    - serious abuse, and the younger they were, the worse it is

    If you're dealing with a difficult child who became a difficult child - not born one - then the process of becoming a difficult child will have also damaged relationships. Not having needs met for years, having parents side with teachers, etc. - they don't trust anybody any more. BUT... they used to. Somewhere down inside, the relationship skills are there - but the relationship got damaged. NOT because the parents are bad parents, but because the whole sequence of events, and the whole system we have to work with (school, medical, etc.), works against the difficult child.

    THEN, it definitely works to rebuild the relationship. We had to guess at what difficult child really wanted - relationship damaged enough that he wouldn't speak up because "we wouldn't listen anyway". We got it right on a couple, close on a couple others... and built from there. Some of these activities are NOT what husband enjoys at all - some, husband likes or loves (like car-lot browsing...). But for several hours a week, husband and difficult child are off doing "guy things" (leaving us ladies to do "gal things"... everybody wins here). And... the opposition, the stealing, the lying, the whole attitude thing... is slowly disolving.

    Warning... FIRST, we had to get to the bottom of the real problems and start making a difference there. Otherwise, there would have been no basis to rebuild. THAT process... only took 10 years.

    Now? Well, if this was as bad as he had ever gotten, I would not have come here.
  10. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Onyxx was very gung-ho about me reading the Twilight series. So I did, in the interest of common ground. Immediately it became stupid. We've tried that with artsy-craftsy stuff, too. I tried with music (as did husband). Movies - husband. Anything we get into, that she likes? Is no longer interesting, or good, but "stupid" (I can't use the actual words). Now, some of this is typical teen - to quote, "if more parents liked Madonna she wouldn't be half as successful"... But with our kids, it goes beyond that.

    The most difficult part is finding something to try when they won't open up to you...
  11. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Step... You're probably dealing with a child that never had a strong attachment to begin with... harder to find a "hook" to start the process with. Plus... some MH issues, makes it even harder. A very long history... doesn't help.

    At some level, some of these kids are "broken" rather than "hurt".
    Ours was "hurt" - fairly seriously, but not "broken"... therefore, higher chance of healing? He won't be without scars, but may well be able to be a fully functional contributing member of society.

    I don't know how you deal with "broken".
    And there are probably different levels of broken... so, some difficult children can get more help than others?

    I don't know. I do know that... ugly backgrounds tend to produce ugly results... and while the kid had no choice in that, in a lot of cases, the current parent(s) didn't either.
  12. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    I don't think I am trying to build a relationship on "things"...

    I have to actually take a step back here - because I don't how understand how all the stuff we do together is *not* relationship-building. The family spends a ton of time together. We eat dinner together most nights, we watch tv/movies together all the time, we go do family-style activities on the weekends, etc. We often try and split up to do guy stuff and girl stuff. PLUS I will take difficult child shopping or whatever...

    but all of these things make difficult child upset. The dinner is not what she wanted. The show was not the one she wanted to see. The activity is not what she wanted. She doesn't want to be with just her Mom. Shopping stinks. etc etc etc

    So according to our therapist, in order to "build a relationship" - we have to spend even more time with difficult child. And we must absolutely bend over backwards to make sure that difficult child is in full control over whatever we do.

    And when difficult child is in control - it feels as though she uses that control to "punish" people. She doesn't want anyone to be involved with *her* stuff - she doesn't want anyone to know *her* business. But she's gonna make DARN sure that you know how much she hates whatever it is you like...

    It always feels like such a lose-lose.

    But, the therapist is sure that if we just spend enough time together....
  13. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    IC, I do think you have a point with broken vs hurt. I am/was one of the broken ones. You havent been here long enough to know my history but what I went through as a child was not pretty. I rival some of the hardest of some of the kids on this board.

    Now Cory was hurt I guess. My upbringing certainly didnt help me be the best parent. It was a sort of learn as you go type deal. I didnt want to be my mom so I tried very hard not to be but I slipped on occasions. I think he will be better than me.

    On the other hand, his father had a great relationship with his parents even though they were dirt poor and his mom died when he was 15 and his dad died when he was 22. Tony is a great father. That doesnt mean he knows how to parent mentally ill kids well. We just sort of held on. They were ours. What else do you do with them?
  14. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Not that I'm an excpret on this, but when difficult child was younger, I'd take him to the park to go for a walk with me, and sometimes even take the dogs. I found when I 'tried' to have a talk, it failed- just like when a wife wants 'to have a talk' with her husband sometimes- the wall goes up. If we walked a couple of times on a couple of different occasions before he opened up, that was fine. I told him I was there if he wanted to talk, that I loved him and wanted things to be better between us, and left it at that. Sometimes just sitting on the swings saying nothing left me feeling closer to him.

    As he got a little older- middle school age- we started having 'family night' which might include a movie, munchies and a board game, whatever. I found we just chatted and laughed and talked about things without even planning on it. I remember once things had been tense with the extended family and bnoth difficult child and I were stressed. I asked him to choose a comedy and he inadvertantly picked one about a very dysfunctional family, including extended family. We laughed until we rolled and at the end of it just looked at each other and laughed, knowing we both understood that this is the kind of family we are dealing with, but we got a few good chuckles we could share and remember.

    Once he really got defiant, it didn't matter what I did or didn't do. There was no reaching him. I think it was because HE didn't want it. I'm not so sure anymore that TTs don't go thru a stage where their parents aren't really a welcome part of their emotional lives. And if they are a difficult child, well....maybe we just need to let them know we are there if they ever want a better relationship or to talk or whatever, then quit trying until the kid is older or decides that THEY want to re-build the relationship with us.
  15. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    klmno... I think you have it right on the head.
  16. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Duckie is a LOT younger than your daughter, but our overall relationship has improved the last few years. A lot of that has to do with treating her asthma effectively and her sleep improving. But, it's also improved because she's found interests that she is good at and enjoys. I think, Duckie not only feels better physically but she feels good about herself (and not that false bravado so many of our kids exhibit). It helps her want to do better in other areas, like getting along her family.
  17. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Some days it works, some days it doesn't.
    A friend gave us a Mancala game and I had difficult child open it up last night so we could play. To my surprise, he was open to it, and sat right down. Turns out it's a game board for 4 and there were only 2 of us. husband came home and noticed the same thing. We gave up on it. But it's the thought that counts. :)
    I'll try Scrabble or something another night.
    I hate to plan a family game night (that's what easy child thinks we should do) because I can never tell what mood difficult child will be in. on the other hand, he doesn't like change. Sigh.
    This is where detachment comes in handy.
  18. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    DF -
    I do NOT agree with your therapist.
    And yes, I do not know the whole story, but I know enough that... I'm pretty sure this isn't a case of real ODD.
    This is... underlying problems. That there doesn't seem to be a way to address. And that have resulted in relationship problems.

    Which means... you really can't work on the relationship until you (and she, and the docs) make progress on the base-line issues... whatever those are. The first hook is making a difference in the underlying problems. You don't have that yet.

    And I agree - loads of tdocs just don't get this picture. They think fixing the relationship will fix everything else. NOT.
  19. Methuselah

    Methuselah New Member

    Daisy, I've said this before: when a therapist asked our family to bend to difficult child 2, I asked if we should tattoo handling instructions on her forehead, since the world is expected to change not her. :-/

    KLMNO, I was informed by the psychiatrist we saw in the spring for difficult child 1, it may not be until she is in or near her 40s, if it happens at all.

    Personally, I am so fried I don't care what the reason for the behavior; just fix it. I don't know what causes my daughters to behave the way they do. I do know they do it deliberately and are aware they are doing it deberately. They just don't care. All that matters is they get what they want.
  20. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    meth....when it gets to that point, there is no use in even trying anymore. Cory got to that point at 17 and I flat refused to continue to fight anymore about anything with him. Not my problems. I started trying to work on my issues more.