Hi, I'm exhausted!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by diasbox, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. diasbox

    diasbox New Member

    Hi everyone, I'm new here. I've poked around a little over the past couple of weeks, a little freaked out by some of the things I've read, afraid to jump in. But I'm feeling pretty much at the end of my skill set with my 13 yo son (tentatively diagnosis: ODD, maybe ADHD). I need help!!!

    The main problem is my son's extreme anger--a hair-trigger temper, extreme reactions to relatively negative situations, usually involving not getting his way, and blood-curdling, obscene, very personal verbal abuse, mostly directed at me. Lately also destructive behavior. He's been involved in family therapy for a few months, mostly focused on my daughter R (depression/anxiety, on Prozac, doing great now). I don't think our shrink gets how severe the problem is, so I'm really frustrated and don't know what to do next. I'm having a hard time not taking it personally--I'm vulnerable to clinical depression and I'm feeling myself sliding in that direction.

    My son W had a lot of tantrums as a little kid but has otherwise always been loving, funny and sweet. Seems like the tantrums/outbursts always came in cycles--a couple of months at a time. This latest cycle--six months or so--has been very long and extreme. In between outbursts W is pretty normal, funny, huggy. He's not hostile 24/7.

    I'm feeling like a complete failure and a terrible mom. And I feel a mixture of resentment and deep sadness about W. Sometimes I get so exhausted (like NOW!) that I feel like giving up and sending him to live with his dad (a whole other set of problems there) but I'm scared to death he's going to get worse and become violent (not to mention even more unhappy).

    I've seen "The Explosive Child" mentioned a couple of times, I plan to pick it up at the library.

    Anyway, that's us in a nutshell.
  2. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome diasbox. I'm glad you came out of lurker status and joined us.

    Couple observations and questions for you. I see that you have depression and so does your daughter. How about the father? Any emotional/mental history there? You know that genetics plays a huge piece. One of the first things that pops to mind in a situation where the parent and sib have depression and another child is having anger issues, is another case of depression. It's the way depression is most often manifested in kids.

    You have been going to family therapy for your daughter - has your son been soley evaluated? Has he been to a neuropdoc or had a complete evaluation? That is going to be the only way to find some answers - if the current family therapist (I am assuming the doctor is a therapist and not a psychiatrist) can't see or help - find another doctor. One suggestion would be a journal of your son's behavior. If the outbursts are really violent, videorecord them or tape them for a doctor's review. Keep a written history of the triggers, the level of anger, etc. That can be a great help to start off an evaluation.

    How does your son do at school? Does he have friends? Is he respectful to his teachers? What about his relationship with his father?

    There appears, at least on the surface, to be a lot of things at play in this situation. Not the least of which is the puberty years in boys!

    Glad you are here with us!

  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Welcome. I havne't time to post much in detail, it's midnight here and I desperately need my sleep.

    Read the book ASAP. IN the meantime, check out some discussion on the book in Early Childhood (stickies at the top), it will give you a few clues.

    Don't let yourself feel guilty. None of us are perfect, on this site we help each other with collective info but we still fall into traps. Hey, it happens. It's impossible to raise a perfect child, so when faced with a difficult child we have to accept we'll make mistakes. Take note and move on.

    Also be aware, right now on top of whatever else your son is dealing with, is testosterone. It starts early and takes them by surpriase, so it's not surprising it's causing you trouble also.

    Has ODD being officially diagnosed? Or is it something you feel fits his description? Be aware, ODD doesn't generally travel alone. Or to be more accurate, there are often situaitons which can look like ODD but which are caused by an underlying problem coupled with a parenting style which normally would work, but which with some kids seems to make them worse. For example, the usual conservative, strict parenting style held up to us as the ideal way of parenting (and which 'never did us any harm') can really aggravate ODD-like aspects in difficult children. RThis doesn't mean that the problem is caused by bad parenting - this isn't about blame. But changing parenting styles to something that is a better 'fit' can make a positive difference.

    A fine distinction, perhaps, but with your admitted tendency to blame yourself, I wanted to make it clear - no blame is appropriate here.

    If he's unhappy, if he feels he 'can't win', then he's likely to have outbursts. There are many prongs of attack here. The first steps include what you are doing now. Also looking to study him, what triggers him, what calms him, what underlying problems there may be.

    Others will be along (including me, when I've had some sleep!). You've come to a good place and taken a positive step.


  4. Nancy423

    Nancy423 do I have to be the mom?

    Definately get your hands on that book.
    I would concur with- the recommendation to seek out another psychiatrist or neuropsychologist for a full work up. You might have to see a few docs before getting answers. Some of us have been seeing them for years and still can't pin point anything. but hang in there.

    Welcome to the boards. Hope you continue to find some info helpful around here.
  5. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Welcome. I'm glad you found us.

    As others have posted, ODD rarely travels alone. Think of it as a symptom rather than a diagnosis unto itself. An underlying condition (such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder) generally fuels oppositional behavior. When the underlying condition is identified and treated, the ODD behaviors typiclally subside. So . . . your job -- with the help of mental health professionals -- is to figure out what the underlying condition is so you can put the appropriate interventions into place.

    It may seem that as soon as your daughter improved, your son fell apart. That is actually a fairly typical pattern in families. It is no one's fault, but the stress of living with an ill sibling can bring the other sibling's issues to the forefront. My youngest daughter M has always been an anxious child, but she was coping fairly well until her brother J became very violent and aggressive from the onset of bipolar disorder. His illness frightened her so much that she developed severe anxiety that led to an eating disorder. We then found we needed to get her evaluated and into treatment of her own. We actually took her to a new psychiatrist so she could have someone devoted soley to her and not to her brother's isuses.

    Many of us here recommend a neuropsychological evaluation, which involves intensive testing (6 to 10 hours) to rule in or out learning disabilities, ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, emotional issues, etc. Neuropsychologists can be found at children's and university teaching hospitals.

    Again, welcome. We're here for you.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2009
  6. compassion

    compassion Member

    Welcome Diasbox!!! This is a great support group! Compassion
  7. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Welcome Diasbox :)

    Glad you found us.

    Puberty tends to make all our kids worse. All those surging hormones create havoc with their emotions and thought processes. Not a fun time for parenting.

    If you don't agree with his current diagnosis, or feel there is something else going on but doctor isn't listening.....you can always go for a 2nd opinion. Most of us have needed to at one time or another.

  8. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Hello Disabox,
    You've already been given some good advice from the others.
    I just wanted to add my welcome.

    Glad you found us, and please be gentle with yourself.

  9. diasbox

    diasbox New Member

    Oh my gosh! I'm overwhelmed by all of the feedback and support! WOW. I'm in tears, I feel so relieved to hear from parents who understand.

    In answer to some of your questions:

    W has been in and out of family therapy for years for tantrums, which tend to come in cycles (a couple of months about once a year). It's never made much difference and in fact I'm discovering that one therapist that I felt was really smart had me doing something that I think made things a lot worse: restraining W when he became destructive. I did that on occasion from age 6 until recently (he's 13), when W ended up pulling a knife on me. So I feel terrible about that and even more confused as to what to do. Do you just let your kid burn the house down?

    Our current family therapist is a young, very warm and smart guy, but he doesn't do behavioral coaching -- he's more of a feelings guy (my daughter gets a lot out of sessions with him, esp. now that she's on Prozac). I've talked with him a couple of times about ODD and ADHD, and the family propensity for depression, and while he seems to think ODD and low-level ADHD is "likely", he insists that W's problem is based in my parenting style and/or some sort of trauma. I've asked him now three times to arrange for a full work-up, and each time he says, no no no, it's about feelings. I'm giving him one more chance. I'm kind of at his mercy because it's Kaiser and he's the referring doctor.

    As far as W's dad goes, sighhhhhhh. He's strictly a weekend dad, and refuses to make any waves with W, ever. There are no rules, no responsibilities, no boundaries, and anything goes. He blames W's problems on me, and he thinks therapy is a waste of time (he has said these things to W, and since then W also blames his behavior on me). He may have depression issues but I'm not sure.

    I can't tell you all how much your support and experience means to me! I am on my way to the library right now to pick up "The Explosive Child".

    Thanks so much!!!:redface:
  10. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Hi and welcome to the board.

    Time for a new therapist - at least for your son. It's not uncommon for parents of more than one difficult child to have separate therapist's and/or psychiatrists for each kid. In fact, I think smallworld's 3 kids each have separate docs.

    I hear 'cycles' and I think mood disorder. Depression, bipolar, etc. My son was very hostile, angry, and aggressive when depressed. My daughter does rage and spew venom from time to time, but mostly her depression is turned inward - she's not good enough, she can't do anything right, etc.

    I understand feeling yourself slide into a depression from this. That's exactly what I did with my son and it was my worst episode ever. I strongly recommend that you find some time for yourself. We have to take care of ourselves if we are to take care of our kids.
  11. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome from a fellow Californian!
  12. howlongto18

    howlongto18 New Member

    "In between outbursts W is pretty normal, funny, huggy. He's not hostile 24/7."

    This comment struck a little bit of a chord with me, because I think sometimes we tend to blame ourselves for our kids bad behaviors because we know they can be sweet and loving, so we have a hard time accepting the reality that their good behavior in no way excuses their bad behavior or makes up for it.

    I constantly have to remind myself not to get sucked into that way of thinking. No matter how loving and sugary sweet he can be... and he can be intensely so... I have to remember that he's apt to flip anytime, and that isn't a reflection of me.

    I don't know if this is true for most of you, but I've always thought of Carlos as an exclamation point. When he's happy, he's ecstatic. When he's sad he's in the throes of depression. When he's nervous he's petrified. When he's angry, he's a torrential storm. My mother used to always refer to it as gusto, but that doesn't even seem to do justice to it.
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    "...he insists that W's problem is based in my parenting style and/or some sort of trauma..."

    To a certain extent, he is right. As I said before, a lot of ODD-like problems are made worse when you get a bad fit between parenting style (especially parenting styles which generally are considered desirable due to the strictness, firmness and control) and some underlying disorders. However, any hint of blame is inappropriate because it will get you abosultely nowhere to bring guilt into the mix. Besides, it's not that you were wrong in any way or a bad parent, it's just that he probably needed a different method, rather than a more correct one.

    The parenting style than can be so good for one kid, can be so very wrong for another.

    If the bloke is REALLY trying to help, he should be pointing you towards some practical ways to change your parenting (if he truly beleives your parentingh is at fault) or better still, towards identifying the underlying cause qand equipping you with strategies to handle it.

    If he isn't doing any of this, then I would aks him point blank exactly how he expects to effect any positive change.

    As for your ex doing zilch in terms of parenting, and ten telling your son that it's all your fault - that's classic passive-aggressive and he's teaching W to also be passive-aggressive. Very bad.

    Normally I do not agree with one parent saying anything bad about another; it only comes back to bite you years later. So handle it gently, but I'm sorry, you DO need to say to your son, "Dad shouldn't have said that to you, it was very inappropriate. He is entitled to his opinions about the causes of your behaviour, but he really isn't in a position to truly understand and he certainly hasn't done anything practical himself to actively work to help you. Allowing you free rein is not the sort of help you need. However, you are becoming a man, in some cultures you would be considered a man already. Therefore I will pay attention to your ideas on this as long as you work with me to try to find ways to help you learn self-control as a man should have. I believe in you, I believe we can do this and my ultimate goal is for you to be happy, productive, independent and a good person. If you are not happy, then we need to discuss this and find some practical solutions. We need to be a team. Are you with me on this?"

    See how this works. Then do your utmost to follow through. Not easy, but if nothing else is looking like it's working well any more, this at least has a chance. It should also snooker any attempt by W's dad to undermine your parenting by his own lazy apathy.

    I hope the book helps. We're here to answer any questions, or just to dump on.

  14. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    First, welcome. Second, you have my sympathies. Dealing with tdocs and psychiatrists in general is difficult. Doing so through Kaiser is almost impossible. You're limited on choices, you're limited on amount of therapy given, you're just limited. If you can find a way to go outside of Kaiser, do so. Sometimes they will give you outside referrals, especially if you can convince the head of the department that the present therapy isn't working. If not, if you can find a way to afford it, please do it.

    I'd try to get him a neuropsychologist evaluation. I doubt Kaiser will do this unless he really starts becoming seriously violent. If you're near a Children's Hospital, you might be able to get him one on a sliding scale. I wish you the best.

    Do know you're not alone. It is easy to blame the parents, especially single mothers. We feel so much guilt and relive every little thing we did wrong from day one to the present. Every parent makes mistakes. Ours become magnified because our kids are so very, very good at letting us know of every thing we ever did wrong. Every child acts out. However, out kids take it to the extreme. You are not a bad mother. You are a caring mother who is fighting to save her son from himself. It is not easy but do know that you are doing everything possible. If you weren't, you wouldn't be here.

    One more thought. You say he only acts out a few months of the year. Is this always during a particular season? If so, you might want to look at seasonal disorders. I know that Northern California has some pretty heavy rains and, thus, a dark season. I also know that some people are affected by too much sunlight -- that's usually physical, but can manifest itself in psychological ways as well.

    Do know you're not alone. Many of us have been there and back several times over. We'll be here to comfort, support, advise.
  15. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    Just wanted to pop in and say welcome. I am coming in a little late, so you have already been offered many suggestions. Good luck, and I have found that reading books is helpful. The explosive child, and I am fond of the love and logic books. They even have one directed at teens.
  16. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Another thought about only acting out during certian seasons - I'd be looking at ALL influences during that time, not just the weather. If it's a time of less stucture, for example (such as during summer holidays, when he is either shipped off to camp, stays with his father more, doesn't stay with his father more) that there could be any one of a number of explanations. Sometimes a kid needs routine so much that he builds it into his own day surreptitiously, and such a kid may do better at school then let it all hang out at home, lashing out at everyone. Or maybe he holds it together at home but you get cllas all the time from school - but yet when school is out he misses his friends. Maybe he behaves worse in winter because it also coincides with his dad wanting to see him over the holidays (andlack of structure form his dad alone, could be causing your son some anxiety in some way).

    Read the book. I'm currently re-reading it (I never read the third edition properly, I feel I memorised the 2nd edition!) and I'm finding more thigns I have been quietly trying to live, now reinforced in the book. One thing I found in my reading this morning that I treasure is something I dared to tell a new member a few months ago, and she got so cranky with me (I think an older member did also) because I think they missed my point - and here I find it confirmed.

    What I said was, "sometimes you have to change your mindset towards your child."
    What I mean in this was, sometimes you need to try to turn around your thinking towards your child from "I wish he wasn't such a deliberately defiant, obstinate, infuriating person, I'm certain he's delibreately being defiant," to "somewhere in there is a kid who wants to be good but doesn't know how, because he just doesn't know how to transition form what he wants to do, to what other people want him to do."
    And yes, it's perfectly OK to acknowledge that this is infuriating. But too often, the more you view your child as a creature being deliberately infuriating, deliberately defiant, this changes the way you deal with him and if he really is struggling with poor social maturity, then chances are your attitude to him (while very understandable) could be making the problem worse. When you change how you see him, you automatically change how you deal with him and this can bring immediate improvement. And because the change IN YOU was automatic, you may even wonder why he suddnely seems to be behaving so much better. Or if he is not, you may wonder why it no longer seems to bother you so much. And the more you fail to be bothered so much, the more his behaviour is likely to improve.

    The trouble with what I said is, it seems like I'm blaming the parent. And I'm not. I'm also speaking form my own experience.

    I had a gem of a mother. She had her faults, sometimes I tell my best friend things form my childhood and she is horrified. But at the time, what my mother did was often better than what a lot of other parents did. However, she also would have made the samew mistakes I did, because I based my parenting on her - basically firm, strict, no-nonsense and the more the child was difficult, the more I micro-managed in order to train him to do things the way I wanted them done. And the worse the behaviour became, because while my other kids were great (comparatively), difficult child 3 was getting really difficult. The most patient teacher he ever had, met me at the school gate one day and said, "You MUST get him assessed for Oppositional Defiant Disorder!"

    I now understand why this was said. Because for kids like this, they quickly learn that to try to maintain SOME control over their environment (and to avoid having to transition when they have extreme difficulty doing so) they rapidly get into the pattenr of automatic refusal. YOu say black, they say white. Out of habit, out of a need to oppose because too often, you want him to do something he doesn't want to do (stop playing the games, come have dinner, go have your bath, go to bed, do your homework).

    The best way to win against your child, is for your child to not know there is a contest, and for your child to want what you want. Hence - you change your mindset, because your child can't. Then as you connect with your child and help lead him in the direction he needs to go (think - recalcitrant puppy learning to walk on a leash) slowly he learns to go with you because he wants to. YOU are the parent, you already have the social maturity he lacks. That's why it is us, the parents, who have to make the change. Not because we are wrong, but because for our children, it hasn't been sufficiently RIGHT.

    I think I need to get 2nd edition out of the library again, but maybe someone can tell me - is there a lot cut out of this 3rd edition? I'm finding it a much easier read than I remember (and I did devour it fast the first time). But it seems to be more a summary, less waffle. Or maybe it's you lot, you've taugt me so much over the last few years that it's making more sense to me now.

    Who cares? I'm still getting a lot out of the book, even after preaching about it here to so many people in the meantime!

    Just shows, I shouldn't get too smug about my own parenting... my mother taught me well, but I've had to go back and reinvent the wheel. I just wish I could call her up and talk about it with her, I know she would have been interested.

    Diasbox, you have a 15 year old daughter you describe asnow doing well, this despite significant depression. That screams at me - you are a success as a parent. In many, many ways. It's just that W needs something different. The fact that you're looking for answers says a great deal more good things about you as a parent. So don't let anyone tell you you are a bad parent. But please, don't get offended with me when I suggest a change in mindset. It's not the same thing at all. (I suspect you changed your mindset to your daughter, when you realised she had a significant depression problem. That's what I'm talking about.)

  17. latelaughtermoon

    latelaughtermoon New Member

    "he should be pointing you towards some practical ways to change your parenting"

    This is the most knee-jerk response to your problems I can think of - run away from your endeavors. No, no, no. If your daughter is doing well it's not just because of medications, right? Pat yourself on the back for dealing this far with such a hurtful and annoying problem.

    Kaiser gives medical evaluations if you were to go directly to your main doctor or pediatrician and request one if your psychiatric isn't cooperating. Been there, done that - our first just flat-out refused to let my son (now diagnosed with bipolar disorder, what do you know!) see a psychiatrist. We changed to another, and in a few months he was on medications.

    Always remember that you are not necessarily are a bad parent if your kid is a little off - whether it be those fits, tics or blips. ALL OUR KIDS HAVE THEM! Some are just a little more present and conflict-stirring than others.

    What about your daughter (who you mention is doing fine, congrats)? Or any household pets? Does he treat her or the animals poorly, or is it a target thing? You might consider that if you haven't already. It sounds maybe like a problem with authority, but you haven't mentioned much about the relationship with his father...

    Don't give up, it's not worth it. :peaceful: