difficult child and obsession

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Wiped Out, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    What a day!

    difficult child woke up this morning and looked at his Easter basket. Inside of the basket was a game for his DSI. Off he went to get his DSI. However, nothing can ever be easy and he couldn't find it. husband got up to help him look-no luck. When difficult child can't find something it's always someone else's fault.

    We tried to get him to remember where he had it last. Due to his short term memory problems he has a hard time really remembering. His story switched at least 3 times from, I used it last night, to I used it a couple of days ago to he and his "friend" played it yesterday. Then he was convinced this friend stole it.

    husband agreed to call the grandparents (where the boy is staying) to ask the friend if he remembered where they put it when they finished playing it yesterday. The boy said they hadn't played it just the Wii.

    This all started around 7:30 this morning. Other than when we went to church (and left difficult child home with easy child/difficult child because with his new medications he has been falling asleep every morning for a couple of hours) and when we came home and difficult child was sleeping this went on til around 2:00 this afternoon.

    Throughout it all he was threatening, yelling, demanding, making up stories. When he gets obsessed there is no getting him distracted. This is not new; he just won't let himself move on when he is obsessed like this.

    Finally husband said he was going to return some dvds to the store and difficult child went along. They found it in the van even though they had looked there earlier. The day seemed endless before they found it.

    The rest of the day he was very off-more due to his new medications we think-we'll definitely be calling the psychiatrist tomorrow.

    How do you get your difficult child off of an obsession? We've tried so many things but maybe one of you has something we haven't tried. There is no reasoning with him when he is like this.

  2. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    The ONLY thing that ever worked took many HARD trials before it worked, before he believed I would do it. It was NOT fun, and required me bullying husband into not giving in to him if I was not at home.

    I simply informed the kids that if tv, computer, gameboy, etc... were important enough to throw fits over then they were too important. Family, friends, school, chores, etc.... were ALL more important than those things. If whining, fussing, raging, tantruming, whatever it is called does not stop then the item will have to go away for long enough for me to feel they were in their proper place of importance. I took away all tv, certain programs, pokemon, gameboy, video games, in just about every way you could figure them.

    It was NOT for a day or two. They were an addiction, or close to it, and had to be removed long enough that the behavior would not start up right away when the item came back. The first week was constant, or near constant begging and bargaining for the item. BAD behavior of the "I will do X until she gives in" variety. by the end of about 7-10 days things leveled out some. I gave in at that point only once. The problems were ALL back in 24 hours and it was like starting from scratch except that he thought if he settled down then they would come back in X days. 1 day after day X and he was ATROCIOUS. It actually took a full week after that point to get to where we were when I had first given it back.

    After that it was never less than 4 weeks before I gave it back. Often longer, usually around 6 weeks. I ONCE gave in because Gma and Gpa came to visit. The next time he called them BEGGING them to come back so he could get his whatever back. He kept calling them over and over one night to plead with them. I got a lovely lecture from my dad about "being mean" and asked him what he would have done if I had EVER called a grandparent to get a toy back that HE had taken away. My mother tried to tell me to stop letting him have the phone. Nope. THEY, the great Grandparent Santa Claus pair, got to tell him no and keep dealing with his obsessions.

    THEY insisted repeatedly before this that he should be allowed to call them any and almost every time he wanted. Period. They did foot any long distance bill, but that was NOT the point or the problem they created. THEY got to deal with him calling as soon as they hung up. It was the first time they really ever felt the obsession that we dealt with, and that previously they scoffed at. Until that night it was yet another thing I was "hysterical" or "over-reacting" about. He was 6 at the time.

    My mother tried unplugging the phones. She had a neighbor that I called. I told her she either answered the phone or got used to not speaking to him - it was NOT fair to tell him over and over to call her anytime, to encourage him to "tattle" on us when he got upset. She made the rules and had to play by them for 24 hours. She answered her phone again, said I was right and it really was NOT fair to him, to me, or to the rest of the family for her to do that.

    The Gparents still fussed with us over taking things away from him, but not when I asked if they wanted to go through that again.

    I dealt with the begging, demanding, bargaining, etc.... by either giving him a chore, or by walking away or ignoring him. If he hurt anyone, including himself, I restrained him until he could make safe choices. The ONE thing he never did was go after one of the cats. Thankfully.

    There were times I locked myself in the bathroom to get 2 minutes of peace from him.

    It DID work. Usually by the time I re-introduced the item in limited amounts he realized that he had to keep himself in line to keep it. That included minimal fussing when the item was put up until the next reasonable time to enjoy it. I did let him know his time limits (one tv show that was X minutes long, X minutes, whatever) and when his next opportunity would be. That seemed to work very well to reintroduce it.

    It isn't easy. It isn't, at first, fun. But then, when it is gone, you do find other things to enjoy and often we found we really enjoyed each other after the first horrible stage of withdrawal was over.

    It very much behaves like an addiction for my son. THIS is a large part of why I think he has an addiction to electronic entertainement.
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    How do you get your difficult child off an obsession? Certainly not the usual ways. Some people try ultimatums - nope. Not a good idea.

    The problem is, anxiety makes the problem worse. And the fear that their access to gaming could be restricted, pushes anxiety up.

    You have to get to a point where the child himself wants to control his gaming. And you can get to that point, especially when they know they can go back to it any time.

    How we've managed - our boys still spend more time gaming than a lot of onlookers think is healthy. But ten - I spend a lot of time on this site, which some people might say is not healthy. It's all relative. The main question is - are you getting the rest of your life dealt with, or is your gaming interfering with you meeting your responsibilities? When you answer that question you have to always keep in mind that a difficult child who uses a lot of gaming as a copping strategy, probably wouldn't achieve much more, if anything, if you took gaming away.

    A trick that difficult child 3 uses to get homework done - because it's homework, it's being done on his time. During school hours he is not supposed to be gaming (although a bit sneaks through on break times). But difficult child 3 when completing work in his own time, often answers one question in his work sheets, then plays a level of a game. Then he answers the next question, then he does another game level. And so on. It's been an interesting exercise to let him do this, because he is learning that while he does get work done, it takes him a lot longer and sometimes he still gets caught up in the gaming and forgets to stop in order to do the next question.

    What we've also done - we've explained to difficult child 3 that his gaming is recreation but his schoolwork MUST be completed. It won't go away, it will sit there waiting for him. He can pick up gaming any time, there i no deadline for it. But there is a deadline for schoolwork. So we've often encouraged him to get his responsibilities dealt with first, so he can enjoy his gaming.

    If you get into a pattern with him of always seeming to be angry or exasperated with his obsession, then it increasingly becomes a competition between you, and gaming. it's like you're always against it, so he will tend to be more anxious about it, more secretive. Not healthy. You need to always make it clear - HE is choosing. And you understand it is his choice, you cannot nag about the gaming, instead you should nag about other work not getting done. He can game all he wants, as long as it doesn't interfere with Life.

    Another trick we've used - we set up whichever our current goal is (at the moment, it's difficult child 3 being in bed before midnight) and we talked it over with him and negotiated - he earns game time, with me, every time he achieves his goal. We accrue the time and 'spend' it on the weekend or holidays. Right now he's into me for nearly two hours' gaming. I have to sit and play a computer game with him, both of us spending time together. I sometimes have a say in what game we play (for example, we have played A LOT of Mario Party!).
    It really is a win-win situation, because

    1) He sees you as a fellow-player and therefore not someone who is automatically anti-game;

    2) You are spending quality time with him, doing something he loves, which boosts your relationship;

    3) You are getting a glimpse into his world;

    4) He is getting a BIG positive pay-off in whatever it is you're trying to achieve.

    You have to play fair - if the phone rings, the clock stops. Be more generous, rather than less. There's no point haggling over minutes and forcing a meltdown, when allowing him an extra five minutes to compensate for interruptions will leave him happy and contented.

    If you have to cut a session short (crises always happen) then make sure he knows that he hasn't lost out. Of course he will be disappointed if a session is suddenly cut short, but make it clear - you promise to spend that time with him when the next chance arises. Don't get upset if he rages or nags, again it will be anxiety speaking.

    And the final really vital rule - NEVER PUNISH BY REMOVING REWARD TIME/VOUCHERS ALREADY EARNED!!! No matter what. If he has earned an hour's play by meeting whatever standard was asked, and you have agreed he has earned it, then he does something bad such as steals from someone - unless you can prove that his 'crime' allowed him to cheat the system and therefore his rewards were not earned after all, they stay earned. You can of course delay awarding them until he is not grounded, but again you need to be realistic.
    I remember when we saw "The Black Balloon" and the scene in that film where the autistic boy (on a sticker-reward chart) runs away and goes into a strange house to use the toilet, his mother punishes him by taking some stars away from him. He had earned those stars in various ways, including taking his medicine without causing problems. To take away the stars as punishment, was a very bad way to handle it. Another example also from that film - his brother 'bribes' the autistic boy by promising him two stars if he goes to his room to play quietly, while brother chats up a girl who has just come to the door. These were wonderful examples of what not to do, but so well presented that we could understand why people do it. We then almost immediately saw why you SHOULDN'T do it.

    I hope this helps. But mostly - this is how he copes. The raging - if it wasn't gaming, it would be something else. The gaming is not the cause, it is just where you see it. If we lived in an era where computer games did not exist, then whatever else this would be, would be just as much a problem.

    Other people around you will give you heaps about this. Learn to ignore them. They don't live inside his head, so they can't understand.

    We have family who don't understand about difficult child 3 and his total obsession with computers, computer gaming and anything electronic. It is such a big thing for difficult child 3, that we know, one way or another, this is going to be his life and his career. mother in law and sis-in-law are so adamant about trying to block this, that they no longer give difficult child 3 any vouchers or money for birthday or Christmas. In fact for difficult child 3's last birthday they gave him a stamp album. difficult child 3 is not the slightest bit interested in stamps and this did not do a thing to make him at all inclined to even think about it. I didn't think it would, but they insisted despite my better judgement. And of course they wanted him to be suitably grateful and awed by the gift. It's OK for me, I actually collect stamps and can see the value in this collection, but I don't think difficult child 3 ever will, not even when he's 50. I would like difficult child 3 to be interested in stamps so he can take over my collection, but I know it won't happen, I've already tried.

    Meanwhile difficult child 3, who had been hoping for money he could put towards his planned purchase of a new DSi, sighed and got on with finding more ways to make enough money to buy his target 'toy'. He did end up buying his new DSi, it just took him a bit longer. He is very single-minded and there's no way that all the thought, energy and effort tat went into setting up that stamp album for him for his birthday, was worth it, in my opinion.


    In summary - you have to work with these kids, starting form where they are at, and don't force the issue. take it very gently and slowly, in baby steps. Computer games are not evil. I don't believe the problems our kids have are primarily addictive, although I see it looks that way. There is a lot more room for working on this, including monitoring which games are available to play. And I also firmly believe that for our kids, they actually get a lot of good stuff form gaming, that we are not always aware of.

  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I never had very much success getting difficult child 2 or husband off their obessions when they were locked on. Diversions and redirections would only last so long, and then the anxiety over NOT fulfilling the obsession would ultimately lead to a meltdown. Then their brains would seem to have "reset" for a short time, until the cycle started over again. The only thing that's helped the most is medications.

    I'm sorry it was such a loooong day Sharon!
  5. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I have to say that I agree with Marg that if the obsessive behavior is accompanied or exacerbated by anxiety, it's very difficult to deal with - threats and ultimatums don't really work. With a kid as complicated as your difficult child, I think the correct medications would really help.

  6. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thank you everyone for the good ideas. I will definitely be able to try these with some things. I think my post was a bit unclear. difficult child isn't addicted to gaming. He was obsessing because he couldn't find his game system. After he found it, he barely played with it. It's just he gets so obsessed whenever he wants something or is looking for something-it's hard to explain. I have a call into his psychiatrist and am hoping to hear back from him soon. With the way he has been acting husband and I are worried about sending him to school tomorrow.