Need help (behavior issue in 13 y.o.)

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by WornOutAndTired, Dec 13, 2009.

  1. WornOutAndTired

    WornOutAndTired New Member

    I am very new to this, so please forgive me for anything I do wrong...

    My difficult child is thisclose to being 13; he's generally (85% of the time) a sweetheart. However, I have caused the following problem and don't know how to correct it. It's all my fault and I know it. Anyway, I am the only help I've got with my son. No siblings, no parents, no sitters, no friends. It's okay, but it means I have to take my son EVERYWHERE with me. About a year ago, I let him get a toy at the store while I was necessity shopping. Once turned into everytime. And in every store. He picked out a drill at Home Depot today. I didn't need the drill, but now I have it. If I tell him "No" I could end up hurt. That's my reality. He's not quite as big as me in height, and I definitely have a good 40 pounds on him, but OMG he's so freakishly strong for someone that's only 5' tall and 90 pounds!!! I've been rationalizing that a sitter would cost me $20 or more, so let him get the toy or whatever, but this has got to stop. My husband isn't in-state right now, so he couldn't help if he knew what to do. Is there some sort of professional that can help me figure out how to handle and correct this situation? I'm so lost and I am so embarrassed to have gotten us into this dilemma.
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    By Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I presume you mean autism? High-functioning? I do know the "do it once and it's locked in as 'but we ALWAYS do it this way!' " problem, we have had that with difficult child 3 especially.

    I have only got a couple of minutes, it's very late here and I have to get to bed, but others will be along with good advice, plus I'll be back in about 20 hours.

    In the meantime - try to get your hands on "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It's been very helpful for us.

    The problem is - we try to parent our 'different' kids using techniques that worked for us. But these kids are different and the old methods often make our kids worse.

    Get the book. It helps.

  3. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    Goodness, I guess I would start by gradually getting smaller/less expensive items- like have a conversation before you go to the store and say I can buy you something, but it can't cost more than $xxx, then after a while tell him he won't be able to buy something from the first store(s) you go to but the last store he can, and maybe after that tell him you can get a treat on the way home after errands are finished.
  4. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    My difficult child was almost impossible to take shopping and our in-home gave us a plan to help...and honestly, I don't see why it wouldn't work for you.

    Like I said, it was almost impossible to do any sort of shopping with my difficult child, so the goal was to get in and out of the store successfully.

    We made a list. In the beginning, we went to the store every day, with the list. The list had one item on it for me, and one item on it for him (dish soap for me, pack of gum for him, for example) and no matter what happened, we purchased those two items, nothing more, nothing less. (you might want to find you a high school boy to hire to take with you on these outings for a few trips...). We did that several times.

    When that went well, I put two items on the list for me and one item for him. We never bought anything that wasn't on the list. Ever. If you are a person who likes to browse and shop, that would be hard, but I think that was the important part - the list is what drove our shopping trip.

    Eventually, my list got up to several items (still a short list), and his remained at one.

    When that was going well, we'd put a pack of gum on the list for him only and we'd stop and get that. Then the list would only have one item for me and we'd get that.

    The idea was that the list drove the shopping trip. My difficult child could see the progress of the list, items being checked off, he's got something on "the list", too, to make it important to him, etc. For us, it worked well. He was younger, and a different problem, but I could see this possibly helping you, too.
  5. Christy

    Christy New Member

    Try having a conversation with your son before going to the store. Set a price limit or decide that you will only purchase something for him once a week. Offer a reward at home, like a special dinner or an extra hour of tv/computer time if he handles going to the store without an issue. Just because you have bought him something on past visits to the store does not mean you are locked into doing it all the time. Just explain to him ahead of time that a change is necessary. Give him a chance to process this new info and get over the anger, then remind him again before going to the store.

    It's hard to be all alone when dealing with a difficult child but he's controlling you because you are afraid of his reaction to being told no. I understand why you are fearful and you will need to seek out community support like the police if he becomes violent but you can't let this continue without laying down rules/guidelines that you are comfortable with. Contacting local agencies such as the Mental Health Association can get you in touch with local programs that may be able to work with you and your son.

    My son has been both confrontational and violent when he doesn't get his way but I don't give in to him. He has to know who is in charge. This has caused a few embarrassing scenes in stores. Once, when he was five years old, he gave me a black eye with an intentional head butt because I wouldn't buy him a toy at a book store. I have escorted him kicking and screaming out of the store on more than one occasion and I've had to call the police a few times. This isn't pleasant and I didn't want to do it but I've gotten the point across to him that he can't bully me. He is now much better at going to the store and handling the word no.

    Good luck,
  6. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I'm sorry, but I will have to respectfully disagree with those who say taper it off. Your son is old enough to understand. If he doesn't, do your errands when he is in school. I know that is not practical, but a drill for goodness sakes!!!!

    Sit that boy down and tell him this has to stop. Tell him that he is causing a financial hardship. Tell him this is not real life. Tell him you give in because you are embarrassed he will do something in the store if you say no. Take your pick...

    But 13 is too old to be throwing a tantrum and buying a drill is beyond giving in. Giving in is a pack of gum or a $1 toy is giving in. A drill is no regard for boundries or responsibility. Nip this in the bud now. Next it will be a car!

    Having said all that, I have a question about your statement that you could be hurt. Has your son hurt you in the past? Has he made threats to hurt you if you don't do as he says? Many of our teen difficult child boys are bigger than we are. Would he honestly hurt you in public or are you thinking he would wait until you got home and do something? Living in fear of your son is no way to live. If you honestly beleive your son is a threat to you, you need to handle that issue now as well. With his doctor, with the police, with a hospital, whatever. But you need not live in fear. He is learning nothing that will prepare him to take over this life if everyone is fearful of his reaction and gives him whatever he wants.

    Two issues. The sense of entitlement has to end. The threat of voilence is not to be lived with.

  7. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    To add to what Sharon posted, are you working with professionals -- a psychiatrist, neurologist, therapist, developmental pediatrian, autism specialist, anyone who understands the specialized needs of your son with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and epilepsy? If not, you need to get a team together who can work with you to put into place both medications and interventions so your son can function better in life.
  8. Bean

    Bean Member


    I have to agree along the lines of what others have said with stopping the behavior of purchasing items for him, either by shopping without him (while he is at school), or having a conversation beforehand and sticking to the (reasonable) parameters you set up. There will have to be an end to it at some point, and if he explodes, maybe it is a good thing you will be in public when he does. But, in the long run, it is not a good routine for him to feel entitled to something like that.

    Definitely do not want to live in fear of your own child; it isn't healthy for either one of you.

    Big (((hugs))).
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    The problem with sitting down a kid like this and telling him to stop - they are so incredibly single-minded and unable to think outside the square, that either this method doesn't work at all, or they will nod and smile, take it on board - then not relate it to the real problem and next time you're out, it's all on again.

    There are multiple problems here, with this. We've encountered it too, but we did find we had to be firm and endure the tantrums. We did our best to reduce the tantrums andalso avoid them, but the problem with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids and this sort of problem - every time you apparently give way, you greatly reinforce the association between going out, and buying something he wants. Even if the reason you went out is to buy whatever it is!

    With difficult child 3 we tried a combination of techniques to try to udo this conditioning. First - the talk, as suggested. But using Explosive Child techniques - back off before it blows up. We did the talk before we went out.
    Second, we recognised that a lot of the problem was anxiety-based. If difficult child 3 (or one of the other kids - they ALL had this problem to a certian extent) wants something desperately, we have a strict rule. HE has to pay for it out of his own money, and if he hasn't got the money at the moment but it's a brilliant deal or it's on special or it's the last one or any other similar argument AND we agree that yes, it's something we're prepared to let the child have once they pay for it - then we will get it and keep it at home in what we call "family shop".
    It stays in family shop until the child has paid for it. They know it's been acquired and won't be sold to someone else before they get back to the shops. This reduces much of the anxiety.
    The problem can be either escalated next time you go out if the item still hasn't been redeemed by the child, or it can be reduced. it's in how you handle it next.
    Because next, is a very iportnt rule - ONLY ONE ITEM IN THE FAMILY SHOP AT A TIME. That means that if on Wednesday you bought Item A and it's in family shop because difficult child needs to earn it either by donig paid-for chores or wait for next allowance instalment, and he wants you to buy Item B - sorry, we already have an item in family shop. You can't buy everything and you made achoice on Wednesday.

    The effect of this, over time, is it teaches them to think a bit more before insisting that you buy something for family shop. Because once it's bought, they're locked in.

    The advantage of buying it - they WILL have it, wneh they have paid for it. The disadvantage - they can't back out.

    It's a real life lesson.

    We first brought this in when easy child was very young and collecting Sylvanian Families for her dolls house. There was a store we used to go to, she would spend all her pocket money there. Then one day the store had a sale but she couldn't afford any more, so we decided to help her out, knowing that the store was selling off their Sylvanian Families stock cheap and wouldn't have it any more. husband & I stocked up and long after that store stopped stocking Sylvanian Families, easy child was still buying pieces off us. Even before thta, husband & I had found that if easy child saw something she desperately wanted and was rarely ever there (say, a standard lamp for the dolls house) she would be in floods of tears over whether it would ever be there again in the shop. So if we bought it for her to redeem when she could, she would relax and not stress. And if she meanwhile saw something else she wanted to buy instead - sorry, that standard lamp you HAD to have? It's first on the list. You pay out your debts first, before you spend any more elsewhere.

    We developed this as a coping strategy (to help us cope with our kids' anxieties) but it turned into an iportant strategy for teaching our kids to manage their obsessions and their anxieties, as well as their finances.

    I've modified this with difficult child 3 because we use a credit system to encourage him to complete his schoolwork at a certain rate. So he can redeem family shop items with cash, with vouchers or a combination of both.

    The thing is - Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids are often anxiety-driven. They can be incredibly rational, rigid and determined. You can't manage them by being MORE determined because then you are guaranteed to clash and they are gonig to be stronger than you. Instead of clashing, you have to try to direct or lead. Use logic, use reasoning. But if their anxiety kicks in, you have Occupational Therapist (OT) fall back on reassurance before going back to logic.

    As the child realises you are trying to help him stay calm, he often becomes more accepting of what you want from him. It does take time but it's definitely worth the effort.

    With a "normal" kid, of course you should be able to say no, and if they are particularlt spoiled, then the sit down and talk first about "we can't afford this" is what you have to do.
    Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is another order of magnitude beyond this. The usual rules don't generally apply, because they just don't work.

    A quick example - difficult child 1, like easy child, was in Long Day Care from 12 weeks old because I worked full-time. The child care centre was five minutes from where I worked so I was able to continue breast-feeding. But it was a long day. I would arrive at the Centre at 8 am (when they opened) and we were usually first in. I would stay until 8.15 am then head off to my work. difficult child 1 needed breakfast and the first care worker there would usually feed him his cereal for me.
    I'd be back at 10 am for 20 minutes, then again at 1 pm, for an hour. There were other mothers doing what I did.
    But the first worker in the place was generally the same one - Lyn. The director was very strict about workers not having favourites because if they did, that child would often cry for THAT worker and not let anyone else handle tem. Lyn somehow became difficult child 1's favourite and the director was very angry with her. Lyn kept saying, "Yes, I love the kid, but I didn't make him my favourite, I know better than that." But still difficult child 1 would cry if she left the room, every time.
    Poor Lyn!
    We know now what happened - it was the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The habit that usually causes problems in a child care centre, which they were meticulous about avoiding, we inadvertently triggered off with the early breakfast routine. With any other kid it wouldn't have caused such an intense reaction, but with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) - it happens fast. Habits build up the first time something happens. Reinforcement isn't needed but when it happens, is ten times more powerful.
    With difficult child 1, Lyn did nothing wrong. Shecwas there, that was all. She just happened to be the one difficult child 1 transferred his attentions to, right after me. She was feeding him his morning cereal. It was ten minutes in the morning, but it was enough to set up the very strong bond between them. Lyn often spent more time with other kids too, but the same thing didn't happen with them.

    Kids with autism can make very strong connections, very fast. Once those connections are made, it takes a grat deal more to break them. Reason is your best weapon, and reassurance. Keep reminding yourself - anxiety is often bheind this. And the more anxious the chgild, the less rational they may be.

    These kids don't like feelnig anxious, they don't like throwing tantrums and the more they do, the more they hate themselves. The more they see you helping them avoid the anxiety or tha tantrum, the more they will rely on your and your wisdom, to help them stay in control. That is your way through.