"Detaching" without being "Detached" is tough!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by DaisyFace, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    difficult child thrives on chaos - and the more trouble she can cause and the more blame she can place on us...the happier she seems to be.

    So, our therapist has advised husband and I to disengage from difficult child as much as possible. If we don't fight with her, we don't give her advice, we don't give her direction of any kind...it will take some of difficult child's ammunition away from her. (And hopefully, eventually inspire difficult child to take some responsibility for herself)

    So far - we have seen a definite improvement in the amount of stress, anger and general chaos in our home. So that's good.

    But - difficult child still lives here. So we are acting like we are "detached" and don't care what difficult child does...BUT since she still lives here and her behaviors affect us - we are still "attached" to her...and her behaviors are still making me crazy!

    STILL not showering! I'm supposed to be "detached" so I don't care - but I still have to live with the stench! difficult child stinks. Her clothing stinks. Her bedroom stinks. Her breath is enough to make a maggot pass out...BUT fiddle-dee-dee!

    STILL can't do any chores around here. I asked her to get the food out of her bedroom and you'd have thought I asked her to remove a kidney. So she does nothing....so she gets no favors from me- but geezz! I'm still stuck picking up after her because all her garbage and such gets in MY way.

    STILL can't do any homework (evidently she still hasn't gotten any...what an amazing school she attends!)...BUT manages to put in all kinds of time planning what she is going to wear to school. Cut up a shirt so she could look like a zombie today. Great! Good effort! Too bad a cool outfit over your filthy body STILL does not make you "cool".


    Thank you for letting me vent. I'm not supposed to care, I guess, but it would be so much easier to be "detached" if I didn't have to look, smell and live with the issues day after day after day...
  2. rainyseason

    rainyseason Guest

    That would not be possible here. I couldnt 'detach' either. How could I? I'd be tripping on garbage etc.... Although I REALLY wish I could detach...But I can see how it would be frustrating. And how is it supposed to work? If I just decided to let my difficult child do whatever....omg! LOL Mine wouldn't be picking out outfits for school, because he just wouldn't go! Forget about bathing, school, cleaning up anything, he'd probably have the video games blaring all hours of the night and he'd be telling me where to 'go' the entire time.

    Is the idea for difficult child to suffer her own consequences? But even with that I dont get it. Because in the end, your suffering too, which for a difficult child is probably just 'awsome'! Our psychiatrist hasn't decided what to do on our end yet. We're still trying to figure out what is epilepsy related (postictal rages, irritation etc...), what my be pill related (crying spells, depression etc...) & whats blatent bad behavior (cussing at us, hitting, throwing stuff, throwing himself on the ground, because he knows I cant lift him & therefore cant force him into the car for school).....I just wish there was a pill that cured it ALL. And in the end I get a well mannered, well behaved child! If wishes were horses I guess...
  3. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Well things were so out of control (police etc) in my home that the main idea is to de-escalate the battling...and change the focus of difficult child's behaviors.

    For example, difficult child has never liked to bathe/shower...and difficult child focused a lot on the battle. If she even suspected we were going to try to get her to take a shower she would build up this massive rage and pitch a full-blown temper tantrum. Obviously - a very volatile situation.

    Instead, we have "dropped" the showering issue...and the idea is that somebody outside of the family is going to tell difficult child that she smells....and this will motivate difficult child to shower without feeling that she is "submitting" to the will of her parents.

    So far, though - whenever anyone has mentioned to difficult child that she smells, or her hair looks greasy, or her clothes look dirty...she just argues and tells them that they don't know what they are talking about.

  4. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I know about the showering issue... Jett does not like to... His showers last 2 minutes (which is good for water consumption, I guess) but he doesn't WASH.

    He hates putting on deodorant - but he really, really needs it.

    So Monday night? I reminded him at 8 PM to shower. At 9 - bedtime - I pointed out he was wearing the same clothes, and asked if he had. "I'm sorry. I forgot."

    Told him I'd had it with the forgetting, and if he wanted people at school to tease him because he smelled, it was up to him.

    Well... I didn't have to remind him the last 2 nights... But then he left his shoes in my room. 2 week old shoes and the entire room REEKED. I told him he needed to start putting deodorant on his feet, too.

    He's the only kid I've ever met who can make a stick of deodorant last over a year... UGH!
  5. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    Oh my goodness - that would drive me CRAZY! I couldn't do it. I mean I get the idea behind it, but I would not be able to do it. I would wash all of her clothes so at least they didn't smell bad - and then just throw them back in her room as they were. Is there something you can hold over her to make her shower? Does she like to eat / love food? Maybe say you are only going to get a PB&J sandwich for dinner unless you shower. Or no computer unless you shower. Don't fight with her or engage her when she reacts - just enforce what you said and remain unemotional. Good luck!
  6. Bunny

    Bunny Guest

    I don't know if I could do that, either. difficult child is the same way. He showers, but I don't think he actually goes near the soap or shampoo. husband and I don't fight with him about it. He's in middle school now and I figure at some point someone is going to say something to him and he will be embarrased about it. I'm hoping so, anyway.

    I don't know how you be detached without being detached. Like I said, I don't think that would ever work in my house.

  7. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    I don't know where the line is on that, either. Miss KT used to fuss about her "right" to do (fill in the blank), and I would remind her that "I have rights, too, and your right to (fill in the blank) ends when it infringes on MY rights." Washing the stinky body...you may have a right to stink, but that infringes on MY right to breathe clean air. You may have the right to blast your music, but that infringes on my right for peace and quiet.

    After much repetition, it finally got through.
  8. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Daisy, I know how hard and how frustrating this can be. I think you're definitely on the right path with detaching, but you need to take it a few steps further. Beyond just not doing any favours for her, I think you need to put her squarely in the Do-to-Get category. You are required to provide her with food, shelter, clothing, and the other basic necessities of life. You are NOT required to provide her with her favourite food, or nice clothes, or any creature comforts. At all. If difficult child is unwilling to show you even the most basic civility, then you need to return the favour.

    Here's what I recommend:

    1) Strip her room. Mattress on the floor. A laundry basket in which to keep her clothes. No door, but perhaps a curtain for privacy. No toys, games, electronics or computers, no fun stuff at all.
    2) Provide her with the minimum number of outfits she needs to keep her body decently covered. They don't have to be nice. Or fashionable. Goodwill or consignment clothes are certainly good enough, especially if she's going to cut them up. If she does cut them up, do not replace the items. Let her live with the consequences.
    3) Do not let her have food in her room. If she's going to treat your home like a boarding house, then she can live with boarding house rules. Meals are served at a certain time of your choosing. She must eat in the kitchen or dining room, or wherever you deem appropriate. If she's not hungry at meal time, she can wait for the next one. No snacking or grazing. If necessary, padlock the cupboards so that she can't raid the pantry and take food to her room.
    4) Determine whether there are any areas of the house that you don't want difficult child to trash (office, front room, den...whatever) and then don't let her have access to those spaces.
    5) If difficult child leaves her stuff lying around, take it away. Donate it, throw it out, sell it, or just take it and lock it up. If she's not willing to take care of her stuff then she clearly doesn't need it.

    I know it sounds extreme, and it can be hard to implement, but I think it might reduce your stress levels even further.

    We put difficult child on this level of lockdown right before he got his permanent Residential Treatment Center (RTC) placement. He had a terrible problem with stealing and destroying other people's things, was on house arrest at the time, and was unbearable to be around. We lived like that for nearly a year. difficult child's room was stripped: bed, night table, no stuff other than bedding, 7 outfits (one per day), and a book or newspaper. He was allowed to eat only at designated meal or snack times, he was only allowed in certain rooms of the house and then only under supervision. No electronics except for a clock radio, no television or computer access. Phone calls only with permission and all monitored.

    It was brutal to set up, and husband and I had to be very strict with ourselves in order to maintain it, but difficult child thrived in the structure. It took away much of the chaos that he thrives on, and allowed the rest of us to calm down and have some peace.

    Sending hugs.

  9. Jena

    Jena New Member

    (((hugs))) detachting is the hardest thing to do with-kids just letting them trip all over themselves and not being able to stop it.

    i'm glad it's de stressing your home somewhat though.

    keep up good work!!
  10. ML

    ML Guest

    Amen sister. Major hugs coming atcha.
  11. Farmwife

    Farmwife Member

    If you figure out the secret to detaching let me know.

    As for my difficult child, thank goodness he does have hygiene habits, not great ones but I don't smell him so no worries. Of course his clothes leave an odor in the dryer after washing and well, ewwww when I get my load out. *sigh* I think it's the hormones, oh well. His room and level of responsible kitty kat care is another matter. His cat also has some digestive issues. I'll leave it at that just so you know the ick factor is pretty common. lol

    About the baths, I have a sort of twisted sense of humor. I would lock him outside and hose his rear down if he wanted to come in. We have well water so it would only take once because it is icy even in summer. ; ) My solution for the cat, the litter is in his part of the house so he can live with it. If it gets bad all I have to do is threaten just once that the contents will be left on his bed as a reminder to get to his chore. That jars his memory and he starts moving.

    Not a perfect system but I get a couple laughs and he responds with no rage. I wish all our issues could be handled that way. It's like I can be the meanest Mom in the world but if I am laughing and making his "torture" amusing he doesn't get mad...he's always been a jokester himself too.
  12. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Thank you all--

    I knew you'd understand.

    Yes, we are trying hard to stick to the "do-to-get" and not provide any luxuries or favors...

    It's just hard watching them bump up against the same simple concepts over and over and over and over - and choose the wrong thing each time!

    It definitely makes you want to rush in and "fix" it.

    Or at least ask them what the heck they are thinking???
  13. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    DF, difficult child is enjoying the chaos she creates. Even though you are in "detachment mode" she knows that she's creating a reaction from the family. I'm saying that you cannot accept the unacceptable. wm reveled in this type of acting out ~ he still does.

    Unfortunately, there will be no peace in the land while your difficult child is in this offensive cycle of acting out. So what's the next step? Trinity offers a great deal of good sense. This comes down to common sense. husband & I had to enacted many of the same things Trinity did for the tweedles.

    There is no way you have to accept the stench ~ even tho the pro's tell you not to make this a battle to me it was always a health issue (especially for young women). What is your difficult children currency? Is it that favorite top or pair of jeans? All of our little wonders have a currency ~ something that they will work for (unless they are completely unstable).

    The creation of chaos is statistically typical in adopted kids ~ there is a lack of sense of self; the only way they can control a situation is to create chaos & sit back & watch the reaction. That doesn't mean you have to stand for it ~ you get creative with your parenting. I can't come up with anything off the top of my head at the moment - if I do I'll get back to you.
  14. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    I agree with you. I should not have to accept the unacceptable and frankly, this hygiene thing is a big issue for me.....but I am trying to follow the therapist's recommendations.

    Do you remember the rather disastrous kindergarten-skill-level behavior chart that was tried last year? difficult child was to "earn" everything by doing simple tasks (like showering and changing her clothes). There were four levels of priviledges. Well, difficult child never even made it past Level 1.

    And that's the biggest part of the problem in regards to discipline. difficult child has no currency. I cannot tell you how many times we have stripped her bedroom....and she never ends up earning anything back. Games, toys, books, clothes - over the years we've made so many donations to Goodwill it's not funny. She has no phone, no tv, no computer, no video games. The only furniture she owns is an old bed and a shelf. There is an overhead light so she doesn't even have a lamp. Her closet has hangers and wire racks for clothes (she has no dresser) - but she just keeps everything in a big pile on the floor.

    If you tell her she cannot watch the family TV, or use the phone, or play on the computer....she's fine.

    She's so darn stubborn she would sooner suffer than cooperate....and she told the therapist so right to her face.

    And so, we are now following the therapists new plan - which is to see how long difficult child will live under this "self-imposed suffering" of having very little and absolutely no priviledges. I tell you, she seems to enjoy it!

    AND she plays the suffering, poor, abused child for all it's worth! She conned a teacher into buying her school supplies. She gets kids at school to give her clothes, shoes, makeup. She even has a friend's Mom sewing her a Halloween costume! (I guess cause her real Mom is so mean!) She's even got other kids bring her food! We don't allow her free rein in our kitchen - but we'll find food in her bedroom that she brings home from school.

    So far....I have not seen difficult child inspired to do one thing to improve her life. In this area, she can begin working at age 14. We are walking distance from all kinds of stores and fast-food places that are always hiring - but difficult child is not interested in a job. We've told her she can have a cell phone as soon as she gets a job - well, so far, not enough incentive. I don't spend more than $5 on any clothes for her...so everything is discount, closeout or second-hand. She doesn't seem to care. She is not motivated to buy herself nicer things.

    She is barely passing school again this year. She does the absolute bare minimum to skim through her classes.

    husband told her she can particpate in school clubs and afterschool activities as soon as she gets her grades up. Well, she doesn't care....she has decided she's not interested in anything.

    She is old enough to get her learner's permit and work toward a driver's license. She told us flat out she doesn't intend to learn how to drive.

    Well, fine. I'm sure not gonna chase after her to get her driving!

    So she's a difficult child with a capital difficult child...I don't have any answers.

    I feel she needs the structure of an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) - but there is no funding. We are #2 on the state's waiting list for funds. difficult child turns 16 (age of consent) in six months. We are in a holding pattern until we receive funds for Residential Treatment Center (RTC), difficult child gets arrested, or difficult child runs off to live with a less abusive family.

  15. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Oh Daisy, it is difficult! And I agree with your Dr, kinda sorta. Did he also discuss creating boundaries for yourselves? You have certain rights and should be able to create healthy boundaries that you all can live with.

    Like your daughter, my difficult child also hated showering. I mean, she liked showering once she was in there, but she hated having to go through the whole shabang to get into the shower, and the follow up care. She is still like this. She showers more frequently these days (I would say maybe twice weekly) but she still smells and her hair grosses me out at times, her facial skin looks ruddy and dirty and her breath smells rancid. That said, H and I stopped being polite about it. We laid down the rules on showering (at least once a week with difficult child checking in before and after). Then we detached from this particular behavior. After a while we would simply say, "Okay, you smell, you stink - get a shower in or sleep somewhere else" and then walk away. She would say things like, "Gee thanks Mom" or especially to H, "Yeah well you don't smell so great either". We went through a time when she would either wet her hair to make it seem like she showered or she would just keep adding deoderant or worse, Axe spray from one of her boyfriend's - another amazing thing we couldn't understand...how can they stand her stench? In regards to her stuff being everywhere, I told her (and easy child!) if they leave anything lying around, I will throw it out and not replace it. If her room was a mess, that's her business, but the rest of the home is shared. She rarely left anything lying around after pulling a few items from the dumpster a couple of times. Yes, I followed through with throwing out her things that were left lying around! I even threw out something of easy child's, who pitched a fit - only once.

    The thing is, detaching doesn't mean you stop caring or things don't bother you anymore. What you can be doing instead of obsessing on how she's still bothering you, is to focus on something just for you and H or the rest of the family. It's true, the more you hassle her about showering or cleaning up after herself, the more she will fight back. But stop fighting about it. Instead, lay down your own boundaries of what is acceptable and what's not. If she leaves stuff lying around, throw it out right then and there so she knows it won't be tolerated. If she begins to reek, tell her - "YOU SMELL, go shower!" .... Just don't do it every day. Or every other day. Say it maybe once a week or so, but not every day. If you say it everyday, it's useless.

    My difficult child is 21, this is one of those things that's part of her - I don't fight it anymore. Instead, if she complains of zits, I may grab the facial scrub and suggest she use it for a few days to see if there's an improvement - that it works for me! If she complains about having to shower just to shave her legs, I exclaim how much I love that just shaved feeling on my legs. Instead of making it about her, I make it about me. She once asked if I thought that dry shampoo stuff works and I shrugged and said no. She never pursued it. Apparently, she has a full beauty kit at her boyfriend's house these days and showers there regularly. I don't buy it because her hair still looks greasy to me. She claims it is 'product', such as straightening gel, etc. Maybe it is. The thing is, that after years of practicing detachment, it seems I just don't even care anymore. If her boyfriend doesn't mind, who am I to care? She's rarely home anymore. And her boyfriend cleans her room for her because he's a neat freak and can't sleep when he's over if it's all messy. He even changes her sheets for her because she hates to do that also!

    I realize yours is only 15, so you will have to smell her for a few more years and I'm sorry. Detaching was the most difficult thing for me to work through, but it's wonderful and freeing! I think your Dr is smart to tell you to not react to her, but on the other hand, I think you need to put into place some boundaries you can live with before you detach from her behaviors. It is your home after all, and you have a right to live there without horrible odor and mess.
  16. confuzzled

    confuzzled Member

    it still seems to me that for natural consequences to work, one must care about those consequences.

    i think thats where something gets lost in difficult child translation.

    my difficult child is the type who could care less if she smells, even if someone she admired said so.

    mine could care less if she lived in a pigsty, even if she got sick from it.

    my difficult child could care less if she flunks school, even if it will alter the course of her life dramatically.

    her brain doesnt work like that. she's not particularly societally motivated, and internal motivation for many thing we take for granted is less than steller.

    maybe i'm wrong, but i dont necessarily think typical natural consequences (particularly the abstract or consequences that are so far in the future its hard to see the point---almost like "smoking will kill you"...well, will it kill me right this second or 40 years from now) are always useful in difficult child world...especially if they don't care about the repercussion. i personally know i do not want to pick up the pieces of her life down the road, so those natural consequences motivate ME to figure out what consequences, if any, *will* motivate. we all do have our currency---sometimes its just not the currency that should be logical.

    i think always putting the onus on a difficult child to suffer the natural consequence is pretty unfair....they really wouldn't be difficult child's if they always "got it". they live in the moment--consequences do need to occur, but they need to be swift--and the threat of eventually "your friends will say you stink" doesnt solve the immediate problem.

    i dont know what the right answer truly is except to say no one should have to tolerate filth (or a person or place) in their own home, and its pretty unfair to expect you to.

    just my two cents.