Changing my enabling ways....

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by 4timmy, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. 4timmy

    4timmy New Member

    I came to the final conclusion this weekend that I am, indeed, an enabler. ...and I just know that if I don't STOP NOW, we in for a world of more intense, serious hurt. I just hope it's not too late.


    How to I let go? How do I undo the damage I've done up to this point? How do I deal with the fallout of taking away mom friend and replacing with parent? I'm not even sure I'm mature enough to pull it off.
  2. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    The hardest (& often best) thing a parent can do is act in their child's best longterm interests. We all hate to make our kids sad, upset or angry but you need to weigh the potential for future hurt against easy sailing today to be an effective parent, in my humble opinion. It's especially hard for the parents of difficult children, I think, because the line isn't so clear between what are kids are not capable of achieving and what they won't try to do. Sometimes their issues make it near impossible to shake out just what they are able to do. I also think we sometimes "clinicalize" negative behaviors & attitudes before we explore fully if our kids can do better. Not always, but sometimes. My take on it is that my child gets one go round in this life... so I better make sure she does absolutely as much as she's able to do or I've failed miserably as her parent. I often ask myself Fran's question: "Who does this serve?" in order to determine if I'm doing well as a parent. It is okay to answer "Me", or "husband" or "our family" rather than just "Duckie", but I must be truthful with myself so that we keep a healthy balance.
  3. keepongoing

    keepongoing Guest

    I find it hard because not only is it not realistic at all to have typical expactations of my son but he also does not have the drive for 'want to do it myself' that my typical girls have.
    While my girls learn as they go along without much planning on my part my son needs the planning. A real eye-opener for me was when I visited a 'lifecollege' for kids on the high functioning autism spectrum where 20 year olds learn how to shop, cook, clean, take regular showers and all the other independent living skills. It's a good program and most kids graduate being able to live independently with some minimal supports. However it's 40,000 a year to attend. Yikes. I realized that if I ever want him out of the house I need to ignore his lethargy and whining and screeching and he needs to learn and do it one skill at a time while he still lives here. I do not have 100,000 for someone else to teach him. One thing I started doing -and maybe I am just tricking myself- is to ignore that screeching and slammed doors and screamed "no"s after I make a reasonable request of him. I started to think of it as his way of getting time to process a request before being able to do it. It has helped me not respond on an emotional level and have things escalate.
  4. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    We are struggling with this same issue at our house. As others have said, sorting out what your child is "able" to do vs. what they are "not able" to do is never easy. And, sometimes, it's irrelevant. If they must do it as adults to live independently then we must demand it of them now or make plans for them to have protected placement all their adult lives. They must learn their own limits and how to compensate for them if they are capable of this level of self-knowledge.

    What I have found incredibly helpful is having my own therapist to process this kind of stuff with on a weekly (sometimes more often) basis. I am extremely fortunate to have found someone who has 30 years experience working inpatient and outpatient with adolescents and their families. She has set me straight more than once and coached me through helping my spouse understand the way our behavior is affecting our children and why/how we must change it.

    We are also looking for a good family therapist to help us.

    I am as honest as I can be with our psychiatrist and ask her advice on a regular basis. I have a sample size of 3 to base my decisions on. She and my therapist have sample sizes of hundreds if not more. They have the life experience to see things from a different perspective and to recognize the patterns our family has developed that may be getting in our way.

    I think having an awareness that you are doing this (all parents do to some extent, it comes with the territory in my humble opinion) in a way that is detrimental to your child's long term best interests is a huge step and will help you a lot.

    Hang in there. Forgive yourself for past mistakes, acknowledge that you have a much tougher job than most parents do, and seek input from trusted and knowledgeable people while you do your best to just get through today.


    Last edited: Feb 20, 2011
  5. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I'm a firm believer in teaching kids how to do things at a young age; for example, Miss KT was about a year old when I started handing her dirty clothes and having her put them in the basket, because "if they aren't in the basket, they can't be washed." Everything was towards her eventual independence, even before I knew I had a difficult child on my hands. She can do laundry - LOVES to do laundry, in fact - knows how to make toast, sandwiches, baked chicken, and mac and cheese; knows how to clean the bathroom, but hates to do it; can run the vacuum; and make her bed.

    Start with small things, and work up. It's not easy to make huge changes, but it can be done. Hugs and strength going out.
  6. Bunny

    Bunny Guest

    What do you think that you are enabling? Are there certain behaviors that your difficult child does that you know are inappropriate, but let him get away with? Or do you think that you are doing too much for him and that he will never learn to do for himself? I think that standing up and being a strong parent, especially of a difficult child, can be very hard is you have not done so to this point and now have to change your ways, but you CAN do it. You are mature enough. It takes time, though, and you can rest assured that your difficult child is going to kick and scream all along the way. Stay stong.

  7. 4timmy

    4timmy New Member

    You hit the nail on the head. We tried to teach difficult child how to do things at a young age but couldn't get past his meltdowns everytime we tried. If I heard the word "NOOOOO" one more time, or had to watch while he banged his head on the wall until there was a welt the size of a golf ball on his head, I was going to loose it. Everyone told us oh, that's normal, he's testing your boundaries, you have to be more consistent and wait him out...... use time out, count to 5...I endured so much unbelievable advice from people, some who didn't even have kids! He was just too defiant when he was young that we couldn't make him want to do matter how fun we tried to make it for him.

    I have discovered with time and experimentation, however, that the calmer I remain and the tone I use with him when I ask him to do something, it works 85% of the time. I cannot use an authoritative "I'm your Master and you will obey" tone with him or he just immediately goes off. My husband on the other hand believes the old "Do as I say, not as I do" approach and expects him to just do everything he is told without questioning. My approach has been more successful thus far.

    Actually, I used the Dog Whisperer's "Calm Assertive" technique that he teaches dog owners in order to become a more effective pack leader for their dogs. Don't laugh, it's virtually the same concept. My difficult child is extremely sensitive to the energy in his environment (Sensory Integration) and reacts explosively to anything that make's him feel insecure or uncomfortable.

    To answer Bunny's question, though, BOTH. difficult child was exhibiting some inappropriate behaviors (smacking my backend) and physically abusing himself during a meltdowns.

    I read the book "The Explosive Child" and began to learn how to "negotiate" in order to calm him down and provide him with some choices. I could agree to ignore some of his smaller annoying behaviors, but the behaviors that were NON-NEGOTIABLE would not go unpunished. It was at this time that we happened upon a non-profit start-up therapy group in town that held social get-togethers for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). They offered assistance in developing a behavior plan and for about 3 months one summer "Adam" came to our house in the morning and worked with difficult child in developing some lifeskills like getting dressed, making his bed, etc. We had a list of behaviors that were unacceptable posted on our refrigerator. We sat down with difficult child and explained what would happen if he exhibited any of the behaviors posted. It went very well............for about ummmmm 2 or 3 weeks. Then, he would behave for "Adam" but not for us due to our lack of consistency with punishment and me ENABLING difficult child by rewarding him with "guilt" purchases at the store.

    We did finally manage to put a stop to the smacking my backend and physically abusing himself thank goodness. It took almost 2 years to nip those in the bud for good.

    Then, the non-profit folded when the VP was busted for embezzling and not only did I loose a great resource for my difficult child that seemed to be working, I lost thousands of dollars I had invested into something I thought had been our salvation. I lost all faith and trust in people that summer.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have a son who has high functioning autism and I'll tell you how we deal with it and why.

    We have encouraged him to do things himself all of his life. He is now seventeen. He can do more than we ever dreamed possible and he doesn't have meltdowns.However, as he hits adulthood, he is still different and requires more help than an average seventeen year old and in my opinion it would be cruel of us to just say, "Sink or swim." There are some things he just doesn't instinctively know how to do like other kids do. When he graduates, we plan on doing all the things that your expensive school is doing AT HOME. He will get disability...we will teach him how to budget and pay rent (to us) and shop and call to make his own dental and doctor appointments. Right n ow, I'm not sure he would seek help if he needed it (a big danger and one reason we help him out more than his siblings). Although he can not live at home forever (I am an older mom at 57), he should be able to function well with some supports and job placement.

    Because he is on the autism spectrum I don't consider this enabling him. He's not a bad kid, in fact he's a great kid. He's just a child with a disability that he didn't ask for. I have read that Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids often don't hit their peak until 25 or 30 (sigh). And even then not all can be 100% independent. If my son were to live alone, he would go to work, but would do little else other than play videogames or watch television the rest of the day. He will need structure even as an adult to live a full life, like he does now with our aid. As for showering, he'd never do it. Ever. He doesn't care if he

    I guess I'm trying to say that in my opinion you aren't enabling him. He has a disorder that makes him need help. That is far different than giving money and help to a child who is abusing drugs. JMO but I would continue to show him the things in life that he doesn't "get" and there are community services into adulthood to help him be as independent as he can be. Take one day at a time and don't think about the big picture yet (and panic). My son is perfectly happy being an adult who needs supports. I've seen sadder kids who DON'T have disabilities. My main goal for my son is that he live a happy existence and do all that he can do.
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    4Timmy, sounds like a plan! I am going to have to watch the Dog Whisperer. :)

    I agree with-you and others, that we have to teach our kids one skill at a time. My son still melts down when he has too big of a task. But since he is 14 and on medications, he can usually say the words b4 it gets to an explosion. Yesterday I helped him with-2 big Spanish projects that were due wks ago. If I had known about them, I would have worked with-him a day at a time. But I had to be very careful not to overwhelm him. During the first project, he said, "This project was much more successful than others you've worked on with-me." Woo hoo! But by the 2nd project, it was getting tedious, and he said, "This is driving me crazy. I'm going to get mad and blow up."
    So I printed out what we had and just put it aside for one day. Hey, it's already late ...

    I didn't realize that the sensory integration stuff was tied into picking up on others' emotions. Wow. I guess I have to hold my breath and really be a dog whisperer. Mostly, my technique is to literally walk away or leave the house to calm down.

    I hate, hate, hate the lack of motivation that comes with-these kids. I'm thinking that a part of their brain, or a connection, is literally missing. I wish there were a magic pill ...
  10. 4timmy

    4timmy New Member

    I should state here that I don't know of any scientific research or evidence that backs up my theory that difficult child picks up on my emotions, all I can say is that I can literally change my tone with him and cause a negative reaction from him....

    If any of you have been following the post on the board about the boy who tried to kill his mother on Oprah last week, you'll understand what I mean. I don't know if I believe in psychic abilities, but this would explain why my difficult child reacts the way he does to the various stimuli in his environment.
  11. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I'd say a number of us consider that "normal" for our difficult children, they're quite sensitive to things they perceive as criticism/rejection and immediately shift into defensive gear (and yes, including the aggressive I'll hurt you before you can hurt me thing, even if it's just verbal).
  12. 4timmy

    4timmy New Member

    Oh, SO refreshing that I can talk to people who get this!!! I just hate it when I make him feel that way. I always explain to him that sometimes mom just gets cranky and really needs him to behave and that it's not that I don't love him.....

    Teachers especially don't get this. Maybe I'll start a separate thread on this.
  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I don't know if there is research to prove that they pick up on our emotions or not, but there is a reason that "If Momma isn't happy, NO ONE is happy" is a cliche! Kids ALL respond to our emotional state but difficult children seem either much more or much less aware of it. It is an instinctual thing when they are very young that I don't think ever goes away. If I am really happy and go to my mom's house and she is upset I get a whole lot less happy. Not as bad as when I was a kid, but I am aware of it even now. Since she is so rarely even satisfied with me, I mostly don't visit anymore. I hate that, but she is havign trouble respecting my right to set boundaries in my life and I am old enough to set them and let her be unhappy if she wants. But I still knwo she is unhappy!

    You are starting a very difficult road, but a super beneficial one!! Once he leaves your home (whatever reason, whatever age) life is NOT going to baby and protect and shelter him. I have worked with my kids since very very young to make sure they knew how to care for themselves. My mom did with me because her family did NOT with her. She was a late in life baby with sisters five and ten yrs older. Her mom died when she was young and they had a housekeeper who did everything because teachign ehr was too much bother (I am quite sure mom had a hand in that conclusion, lol). My mom once told me that on her honeymoon she had to call room service because she didn't know how to make coffee in the coffeepot! She felt useless and helpless and hated it. My dad taught her to cook - he learned in the boyscouts (once made blueberry pie for a large troop over a camp fire!) and she learned a LOT from books. So my bro and I learned all the household skills.

    At this point you are going to have to relax standards and be insistent. Using the dog whisperer methods is NOT outlandish. My mom tells all newlyweds to use the same techniques she learned in a dog training book by Barbara Wodehouse (big trainer with books out in the 80's). They work on dogs, husband's and kids. Would work on wives if husband's knew about them, lol.

    You should also read "Parenting your Teen with Love and Logic" - it is a great way to learn to use natural consequences while still keeping that loving bond with your child. It may seem like you cannot use it with explosive child methods, but you can. I have anyway, and Dr. Fay Sr and I chatted for quite a while about it at the seminar I attended a few years ago.

    Progress will be SLOW and frustrating, but you will get htere.

    Be sure to stick around here - we know what you are talking about and won't judge you.

    That line between unable and unwilling is tough to decipher, so go with your instincts!
  14. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member